Match preview: Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons

tigger

Saturday 21 September 2013 – 3.00pm

Welford Road, Leicester

Aviva Premiership #3

The annoying thing about being in the Premiership is that you get games like this – games where you have to use all of your imaginative effort to visualise a win, and even then it normally a defeat.

Our last win away to current title-holders Leicester was back in the Championship-winning season 1997/98 on Dean Richards’ last game in a green, red and white shirt.

Pat Lam scored two tries for the Falcons that night along with one from Nick Popplewell, while Rob Andrew kicked two conversions, a penalty and a drop-goal. Apart from a penalty try, all of Leicester’s points came from the boot of Joel Stransky. Richards was joined in the home side by Craig Joiner, Richard Cockerill, Martin Johnson and Neil Back alongside other internationals, and Lewis Moody came off the bench for wor Deano in the second half.

That game was only our second away win over the Tigers, the other coming way back in 1977 when Gosforth’s success had been exemplified by the addition of Leicester to the fixture list. There was also a violent 16-16 Friday night draw in October 2005, which few people in attendance will ever forget for several reasons – Harry Ellis’s cynical charge on Jonny Wilkinson, a penalty by Matthew Burke that never was, and red cards for Andy Perry and Julian White. The Falcons’ try scorer on that enthralling evening? Robbie Morris.

Falcons in LE2:

20/09/1969 Club Match                            L6-48

31/03/1975 Club Match                            L15-18

11/04/1977 Club Match                            W18-6

13/03/1982 John Player Cup QF              L9-18

19/04/1986 National Merit Table Division A     L15-56

28/02/1987 John Player Cup 4th round   L6-19

16/04/1988 Club Match                            L0-65

12/03/1994 Courage League Division 1  L5-66

30/12/1997 Allied Dunbar Premiership 1W25-19

12/12/1998 Allied Dunbar Premiership 1L18-31

12/02/2000 Allied Dunbar Premiership 1L26-34

17/03/2001 Zurich Premiership               L7-51

13/04/2002 Zurich Premiership               L12-20

21/09/2002 Zurich Premiership               L9-52

26/09/2003 Zurich Premiership               L21-28

19/02/2005 Zurich Premiership               L10-83

14/10/2005 Guinness Premiership          D16-16

27/01/2007 Guinness Premiership          L5-39

26/01/2008 Guinness Premiership          L14-41

20/12/2008 Guinness Premiership          L3-20

19/09/2009 Guinness Premiership          L6-15

27/11/2010 Aviva Premiership                L19-44

04/02/2012 LV= Cup                                 L19-24

Leicester gaffer Richard Cockerill is still in the midst of his matchday coaching ban for a malfeasance (if that’s the right word, I’d never heard it before yesterday) at the Premiership Final back in May when he got a bit radgie on the touchline.

No doubt he’ll be getting quite passionate while watching the game anyway, as apparently his fellow DOR and ex-hooker Steve Diamond was while we were beating Sale last weekend.

So far this year the Tiggers have, like ourselves, won one match and lost another in the Premiership. A routine opening weekend victory over Worcester by a score of 32-15 came at a price with Tom Croft sustaining a season-ending injury in the bonus-point win, and this was followed up by a 27-20 loss at Bath on the 100th anniversary of the fixture.

Niki Goneva, Ed Slater and Steve Mafi scored for the Midlanders at the Rec while scrum-half David Mele knocked over a conversion and penalty, but former Welford Roader George Ford’s five penalties and scores from Jonathan Joseph and Matt Banahan gave the hosts the win.

Ford’s transfer from Leicester to Bath this summer was rather unusual in that previous players to make that journey had been towards the end of their careers, namely Dan Hipkiss and Lewis Moody, although fellow half-back Micky Young did go with him. With Toby Flood named as Leicester captain this season and Ford starting the season strongly in the South West, he looks to have made the right decision so far.

No point going through Leicester’s star-studded squad, as the team below is shocking enough, but suffice to say it is brimming with internationals and has a strength in depth that most Premiership clubs, never mind we, can only dream of. Former Falcons players are many, from Lions star Geoff Parling and England’s Flood, to former Newcastle youth player Fraser Balmain and of course the revitalised Mathew Tait.

OK, so there aren’t that many right now, considering James Grindal, Micky Young, Kieran Brookes and Ben Woods have also passed through the door on Aylestone Road in recent years, but it’s a few.

Dean Richards has sprung a couple of selection surprises for tomorrow’s game with James Fitzpatrick and Chris York starting. For Fitzy, it’s a chance for redemption after a yellow card in our last visit to Welford Road, in February last year, and he replaces the injured Danny Barnes. Oliver Tomaszczyk’s illness sees Kieran Brookes back in the front row alongside Rob Vickers, and Mark Wilson and Carlo del Fava are in the starting XV. Dom Barrow moves to the second row in a team that looks built for power through the middle but pace on the outside, and Rory Clegg makes a first start of his second spell in the North East alongside Warren Fury.

There are, surprisingly if there are no injury reasons, no Ally Hogg, Scott MacLeod and Mike Blair in the 22.

Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Franck Montanella, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Dominic Barrow, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Chris York.

Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Andy Saull, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Alex Crockett.

Captain Flood and Lions Manu Tuilagi and Ben Youngs start tomorrow for Leicester, alongside some other considerable talents. Jordan Crane in the back row has had some immense games against us over the years while Dan Bowden at centre is a crafty player who can make something out of nothing in a second. I mentioned strength in depth – compare the two benches if you’re not of a nervous disposition.

Leicester: 15 Blaine Scully, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Dan Bowden, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Toby Flood (c), 9 Ben Youngs, 1 Boris Stankovich, 2 Neil Briggs, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 4 Ed Slater, 5 Graham Kitchener, 6 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Jamie Gibson, 8 Jordan Crane.

Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Julian Salvi, 21 David Mele, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Niall Morris.

It’s going to be tough, but as Adam Powell said in an interview yesterday, these are the games we’re in the Premiership for. Lets have a good sing as we always do at Welford Road and, with a lot of effort and belief, who knows what might happen?

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

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