Sunday 29 September 2013 – 3.00pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Aviva Premiership #4
After two weeks on the road, it’s home sweet home for the Falcons on Sunday as Gloucester make the long trip to KP.
The Cherry ‘n’ Whites have not won in the North East in the league since Christmas 2007, a winless run of four matches. Their previous visit to KP was in December 2011, when James Fitzpatrick and Jordi Pasqualin were the Falcons’ try-scorers in a tense 26-25 win, only our second in the Premiership so far that season. Jimmy Gopperth converted both and scored four penalties for a home side captained by James Hudson, who moved to Kingsholm in the summer. Among the Gloucester scorers was Scott Lawson, now with the Falcons of course.
Gloucester have this week announced a profit for the third consecutive year, but will be less than happy with their start to the season on the pitch. They sit ninth with five points, just one above ourselves, and have the worst defence in the Premiership. Only Worcester have conceded as many tries, ten, in the opening three rounds.
The fixture list gave Nigel Davies’ side an opening game at home to Sale, but while the Shed faithful might have expected a routine victory, Joe Ford’s drop-goal sealed a 16-22 away win after tries from Mark Cueto and Andy Forsyth. Gloucester, for whom Henry Trinder was the only try-scorer, had to be content with a bonus point.
Gloucester then made a visit to Saracens and were sent home with their tails between their legs by a clinical home side, who triumphed 44-12 at Allianz Park. Just on Saturday however, the Tractor Boys secured a first win of the season in controversial fashion at home to Northampton. The 26-24 win was achieved with a last-gasp penalty by Billy Twelvetrees, and after the game there were suggestions that referee Martin Fox had not been altogether fair to the Saints. I have three comments to make on that, having not seen the game:
a) If Fox had been biased towards Gloucester, how come the scoreline was so tight? Why did he not find a reason to disallow any of Northampton’s three tries?
b) A biased referee would, by human nature, be very nervous about getting caught, and therefore is unlikely to make a blatantly incorrect call at such a high-profile time of the match.
c) Northampton had 80 minutes to build up a lead of more than three points, but failed to do so.
Referees make bad decisions, though far less often than they make good ones, but they are not biased and if we believe that they are, then we might as well pack up and go home.
James Hudson has yet to make his league debut for Gloucester, with captain Tom Savage having been partnered by Tongan international Lua Lokotui or Elliott Stooke of England U20s in the league games so far. Players with a foot in both camps have been relatively rare over the years, though prop Rupert Harden spent time in the Falcons’ academy before establishing himself at Kingsholm in 2011/12.
Another summer signing was Matt Kvesic from Worcester, an England star of the future who earned his first caps in Argentina in the summer. Kvesic is joined in the back row by Ben Morgan, already an established member of Stuart Lancaster’s squad.
It is in the backs however that Gloucester really excel with a strong blend of youth and experience. Freddie Burns has heaved himself up the England pecking order and is the first choice ten for Nigel Davies at his club, and came through the club’s academy along with Henry Trinder, Jonny May and Charlie Sharples. These players have benefitted from the experience of England World Cup winner Mike Tindall, who made the switch from arch-enemies Bath in 2006, and former 51-cap All Black Jimmy Cowan, now in his second season at Kingsholm.
Twelvetrees can often be found pulling the strings in the Gloucester midfield following an acrimonious transfer from Leicester last summer.
As if you needed reminding, our last meeting with Gloucester was the Miracle of Kingsholm in April 2012, which was almost worth getting relegated for. Our record against Gloucester away is quite poor but at home it is not too bad at all compared to our engagements with some Premiership sides, stretching back to a controversial cup win in 1977 that saw the referee attacked afterwards.
Gloucester in Newcastle:
12/03/1977 North Road Cup QF W3-0
10/02/1990 Gateshead Cup R4 L15-26
28/11/1992 Kingston Park Cup R3 W13-10
18/09/1993 Kingston Park Division 1 D12-12
14/12/1997 Kingston Park Premiership 1W37-27
25/04/1999 Kingston Park Premiership 1W39-15
30/04/2000 Kingston Park Premiership 1W36-28
06/09/2000 Kingston Park Premiership L18-19
18/11/2001 Kingston Park Premiership W18-16
15/09/2002 Kingston Park Premiership L19-22
05/10/2003 Kingston Park Premiership W42-22
27/02/2005 Kingston Park Premiership D27-27
19/02/2006 Kingston Park Premiership L9-13
13/04/2007 Kingston Park Premiership W19-12
23/12/2007 Kingston Park Premiership L13-20
02/11/2008 Kingston Park Cup L10-11
11/01/2009 Kingston Park Premiership W10-7
31/03/2010 Kingston Park Premiership W25-13
21/11/2010 Kingston Park Premiership W12-6
02/12/2011 Kingston Park Premiership W26-25
Ally Hogg and Mike Blair are back for the Falcons, with the other changes to the starting line-up from Leicester being Matt Thompson and Oliver Tomaszczyk coming into a back that looks built to dominate ball and starve the Gloucester backs. Scott MacLeod returns on the bench, where Rob Vickers covers loosehead prop.
Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Franck Montanella, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Dom Barrow, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Rob Vickers, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Scott MacLeod, 20 Chris York, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Phil Godman, 23 Alex Crockett.
Gloucester have made four changes from the side that beat Northampton, with a frightening three-quarter line looking for more than scraps from Jimmy Cowan and Freddie Burns. If we are to win this game, it will most likely have to be from the forwards winning their battle and exploiting any holes or errors from the away backline. It could be a long afternoon, but whether it will be a successful one we will see. Some light entertainment might ensue if Mike ‘Just a rubbish Jamie Noon’ comes off the bench, hopefully he won’t have the last laugh.
Gloucester: 15 Rob Cooke, 14 James Simpson-Daniel, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 1 Dan Murphy, 2 Darren Dawisiuk, 3 Shaun Knight, 4 Tom Savage (c), 5 Will Hames, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Matt Kvesic, 8 Ben Morgan.
Replacements: 16 Koree Britton, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Rupert Harden, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Mike Tindall, 23 Charlie Sharples.
The (current) weather forecast is for sunshine on matchday, so all of those who wanted Sunday afternoon games have a chance to prove themselves correct that it will be more successful than Friday nights. Other than that, a win would be very welcome in hopefully giving the team a bit more daylight away from the relegation places.
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)