Saturday 5 October 2013 – 3.00pm
Aviva Premiership #5
The Falcons could end a round of Premiership fixtures at the bottom of the table for the first time in 2013/04 this weekend, as our eleventh-placed team takes on Worcester, who prop up the league.
Worcester have just a single point so far, four fewer than ourselves and London Irish, and will be desperate for a win to avoid letting us creating some daylight in the relegation battle.
Perennial strugglers since their first promotion to the top division back in 2004, the Warriors fell through the trapdoor in 2010, only to return a year later by beating Cornish Pirates in the Championship Final. In our last nine games with the Midlanders, there have been two draws at Kingston Park but only a single victory, 14-3 in an utterly forgettable encounter on our ground in November 2009.
This game is a rarity in that it is being played on a Saturday afternoon – over the years, our visit to Sixways has tended to be on a Friday night, including one in February 2010 when only Pepto Bismol got me fit enough to go after missing two days of work. Even after a 13-0 defeat, it was worth going.
Our most recent trip to Worcester was in March 2012, and is notable for having been Peter Stringer’s debut for the Falcons. However, all we could muster were three penalties by Jimmy Gopperth, while Alex Grove’s try and Andy Goode’s boot secured a 19-9 home win. Interestingly, of the starting lineup that night, only six players are still at KP – Jamie Helleur, James Fitzpatrick, Alex Tait, Matt Thompson, Will Welch, Ally Hogg. All of the replacements have also left apart from Grant Shiells and Mark Wilson, both of whom made their Falcons debuts at Sixways in a cup match in 2009.
Our solitary league win at Worcester seems a long time ago. It was the Warriors’ first outing in the Premiership, Jonny Wilkinson was playing his second game since the 2003 World Cup Final, and the sun shone down on the Sky cameras. We won 9-30, debutant Mike McCarthy among the tries.
Falcons in WR3:
25/01/1998 Tetley’s Bitter Cup 5th round W10-0
05/09/2004 Zurich Premiership W30-9
29/04/2006 Guinness Premiership L27-35
16/03/2007 Guinness Premiership L21-23
25/04/2008 European Challenge Cup SF L16-31
10/05/2008 Guinness Premiership L10-51
21/11/2008 Guinness Premiership L11-26
07/11/2009 LV= Cup L6-32
26/02/2010 Guinness Premiership L0-13
23/03/3012 Aviva Premiership L9-19
So far this season Worcester have, as I’ve said, just a single point from four defeats. Their campaign began in the hardest possible way, with a trip to Welford Road and the Tigers were in unforgiving mood, hardly breaking sweat in a 32-15 win. Just like when the Falcons visited Leicester really.
A disappointing crowd of just under 7,000 saw London Irish steal a win at Sixways in round two thanks to a late Ian Humphreys penalty after Euan Murray’s Warriors had gone ahead with tries from David Lemi and Ignacio Mieres, a losing bonus point being scant consolation from a game that the Warriors will have targeted for a win, as they will no doubt tomorrow.
Sixways’ second match of the season saw Harlequins leave with a huge 13-37 victory a fortnight ago, and a 32-16 loss at Wasps last Saturday kept Dean Ryan’s side rooted to the foot of the table.
Ryan, a title-winning captain with the Falcons, and Murray are the biggest links to the Falcons at Sixways, while Dean Richards will be familiar with the place having done some consultancy work with Worcester during his coaching ban.
Only two changes to the Falcons starting lineup that so nearly beat Gloucester on Sunday, with Rob Vickers and Carlo del Fava, who had originally been in the first XV, replacing Franck Montanella and MacLeod, the Frenchman dropping to the bench. Vickers’ inclusion represents a first start at prop for the hooker.
Ryan Shortland has recovered from injury enough to begin on the bench.
Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Rob Vickers, 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 Franck Montanella, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Chris York, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Phil Godman, 23 Ryan Shortland.
Euan Murray starts against the Falcons for the first time since leaving KP, alongside England internationals Chris Jones and Paul Hodgson:
Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Josh Drauniniu, 13 Ravai Fatiaki, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 David Lemi, 10 Ignacio Mieres, 9 Paul Hodgson, 1 Jeremy Becasseau, 2 Ed Shervington, 3 Euan Murray, 4 Mike Williams, 5 Chris Jones, 6 Jonathan Thomas (c), 7 Jake Abbott, 8 Semisi Taulava.
Replacements: 16 Chris Brooker, 17 George Porter, 18 John Andress, 19 Dean Schofield, 20 Cam Goodhue, 21 Jeremy Su’a, 22 Paul Warwick, 23 Alex Grove.
Wor lass was supposed to be making her supporters’ club bus debut tomorrow but the diary filling up on Sunday means we’re making the long drive alone. Still, a victory in this must-win game will make it all worthwhile.
(Follow The Soutb Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)