Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Harlequins

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Sunday 1 December 2013 – 2.30pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #9

The big games are coming fast now. After Saracens, Northampton and Gloucester away in three of our last four games, it’s Harlequins at home, the Londoners’ first visit since Taiasina Tu’ifua temporarily became even more hated in the Borough of Richmond upon Thames than a tax evasion inspector.

It was a violent night at KP in March 2012 with Chris Pilgrim and Rob Vickers sent off in front of the live TV cameras and Nick Evans salvaging a 9-9 draw for top-of-the-table Harlequins in the final seconds with a controversial penalty from a scrum. 7,292 piled into the ground, buoyed by cheap tickets, and watched a blood-and-thunder encounter that showed why the Premiership needs relegation.

Harlequins went on to win the title, the Falcons went down, but it was one of the games of the season.

Since then, Conor O’Shea’s side have faltered slightly, sitting fifth this season after a third-placed finish last season. Not exactly terrible of course, and they did win the LV= Cup last season with a 32-14 win in the final against Sale. Our own Rory Clegg and another former Falcon Pete Browne, now with Tom May at London Welsh, came off the bench in the final at Sixways.

In the Premiership this season, Quins have an excellent away record with wins against Wasps (at Twickenham), Worcester and Leicester away from the Stoop and a bonus-point defeat at London Irish at the start of October. The 16-23 victory at Welford Road just under a month ago was a particularly notable result, Matt Hopper’s converted score the difference between the two teams. Away in the cups they have been less successful, losing at Clermont Auvergne in Europe and Exeter in the LV=.

In south London in the league, Northampton and Saracens were successful away to Quins in September, but since then Sale and Gloucester have been downed at the Stoop, the Cherry and Whites losing 27-19 last Saturday while we were pointless on TV at Franklin’s Gardens. Nick Easter, Danny Care and Luke Wallace were the jesters’ try-scorers and Nick Evans converted all three while adding two penalties, his boot the difference between the two teams as Billy Twelvetrees (twice) and Jonny May crossed for the visitors.

The victory was a special one for Quins, who were celebrating the 50th anniversary of their first match at the Stoop. England captain Chris Robshaw missed out on a return to his club, but Mike Brown and Joe Marler flew the red rose flag.

Easter’s England career would seem to be over at the age of 35 after 48 caps, a shame because for me he was often underrated in the white shirt. Clearly not at Harlequins though with just over 200 starts since 2004. Paul Doran-Jones and Danny Care probably face challenges to get back into the England team, as does Nick Kennedy, and Ugo Monye has also not played for the national team for a while.

The aforementioned Nick Evans would surely have many, many more than his 16 test caps for New Zealand had he not been unlucky enough to be in the same generation as Dan Carter, but he is sure of legendary status at Harlequins with 1,526 points in 134 competitive starts and a single replacement appearance in the EDF Energy Cup in his first season, 2008/09.

Evans’ next penalty in the Premiership will be his 250th.

Harlequins are looking for their first win at Kingston Park since November 2006 when Gavin Beasley was the Falcons’ fly-half in a dismal performance by our team in front of the TV cameras. Since then we’ve had exciting victories in March 2009 (the last in a run of six successive Premiership wins) and March 2011. The latter was a week before Tane Tu’ipulotu scored a last-second try to win the LV= Cup semi-final at the Stoop, our second most glorious win over Harlequins after winning the Premiership title in Twickenham in May 1998.

Harlequins away in Newcastle:

11/09/1954 County Ground          Club Match                L9-35

03/09/1955 County Ground          Club Match                L5-18

01/09/1956 North Road                Club Match                L0-9

09/09/1963 North Road                Club Match                W5-3

24/02/1979 North Road                Cup 2nd round           W9-3

14/11/1987 North Road                Club Match                L4-33

02/10/1993 Kingston Park            Division 1                   L3-22

10/02/1996 Kingston Park            Cup 5th round          L22-44

15/02/1998 Kingston Park            Premiership 1           W43-15

11/05/1999 Kingston Park            Premiership 1           W33-23

05/12/1999 Kingston Park            Premiership 1           L15-16

06/03/2001 Kingston Park            Premiership               L22-24

16/09/2001 Kingston Park            Premiership               D6-6

01/02/2003 Kingston Park            Premiership               W32-17

04/01/2004 Kingston Park            Premiership               L25-29

19/09/2004 Kingston Park            Premiership               W22-21

10/11/2006 Kingston Park            Premiership               L3-14

02/12/2006 Kingston Park            Cup                               W21-18

29/09/2007 Kingston Park            Premiership               W19-12

15/03/2009 Kingston Park            Premiership               W24-16

25/09/2009 Kingston Park            Premiership               D17-17

15/11/2009  Kingston Park          Cup                                L8-19

04/03/2011 Kingston Park            Premiership               W33-18

02/03/2012 Kingston Park            Premiership               D9-9

Of course, Sunday will be the first time that Dean Richards has crossed swords with Harlequins since his Bloodgate ban for events at the Stoop in April 2009 – I’d like to be a fly on the wall if he and Tom Williams run into each other somewhere in KP.

 

Kieran Brookes for Oliver Tomaszczyk is the only change to the Falcons’ starting lineup from Northampton last week, as Phil Godman, Fraser McKenzie and Richard Mayhew continue their runs in the team. Tomaszczyk is out of the squad completely, the only other change to the squad being Sean Tomes on the bench instead of Scott MacLeod:

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.

Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Grant Shiells, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Chris York, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 James Fitzpatrick
Harlequins have their international half-back pairing of Nick Evans and Danny Care in the starting XV for Sunday, with Mike Brown at full-back. With Chris Robshaw missing, Nick Easter captains from the second row and Ollie Lindsay-Hague on the bench is  a name that catches my eye – he sold an outrageous dummy in front of the South Stand a few years ago to score. I’m not normally one for applauding the opposition but that was quite a bit of play.

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Tom Williams, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Tom Casson, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 1 Joe Marler, 2 Dave Ward, 3 Will Collier, 4 Nick Easter (c), 5 George Robson, 6 Joe Trayfoot, 7 Luke Wallace, 8 Tom Guest.

Replacements: 16 Harry Allen, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ollie Lindsay-Hague.

 

Best crowd of the season expected on Sunday, and with those teams I fancy four points.

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

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Match reaction: Northampton Saints 18-0 Newcastle Falcons

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Saturday 23 November 2013 – 3.15pm

Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton

Aviva Premiership #8

 

I’d say that from a personal point of view, yesterday was far more successful than last Saturday. Got me hair cut finally, got me chips post-match, and didn’t have to leg it for the train. Still didn’t get home until midnight but you can’t have everything.

 

The Falcons also played better at Franklin’s Gardens than at Kingsholm. Although we conceded a similar amount of points and didn’t score a single one, there seemed to be more fight yesterday.

 

The opposition were just too good. It’s not the first time I’ve said that this season and I doubt it will be the last.

 

Northampton put us under major pressure in the scrum and all but completely nullified our backs. The only real try-scoring chances I can remember came from a break by Mike Blair and a run by Noah Cato in the first half. If Blair had only just kept running rather than looking for support and losing half a year, he might have scored and who knows what might have happened then?

 

The Saints’ tries were both controversial. The first looked like it came from a forward pass but no replay was shown and the referee only wanted the TMO to check the grounding.

 

The second, however many times it was checked by the TMO (a lot) to me just did not look like it was grounded properly. Some watching on TV, and therefore nearer the screen, say otherwise, so myself and other away fans might be wrong.

 

Still, it was the right result in the end.

 

I thought Alex Tait was our best player – he is really in form and along with Cato tackled well and probably looked most likely to spark something at the other end.

 

There was little from fly-half and while Joel Hodgson might not necessarily be the answer, I am very far from convinced that Phil Godman is. Mind, I thought Blair had a difficult game so that wouldn’t have helped.

 

Richard Mayhew was the pick of the forwards for me, and many others, tackling like a lion, but Ally Hogg’s usual attacking power was seldom seen.

 

In another world, today may perhaps have been better, but it may also have been far worse. We seemed to keep our heads up better than at Gloucester, but had little possession and no creativity when we did have it.

 

Were we disgraced? No. Was it the best performance of the season? Not by a long way.

 

I would suggest that something really needs to changer in attack. Having a very good defence is great but when you defend for 70 minutes against a team as good as Northampton, more than nine times out of ten they will eventually find a way through. Then the game is lost.

 

Still, the foundations of commitment and organisation are there, so it’s not all bad.

 

 

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

Match preview: Northampton Saints v Newcastle Falcons

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Saturday 23 November 2013 – 3.15pm

Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton

Aviva Premiership #8

Earlier this week I saw a tweet that went something like “Can’t wait for @PremRugby to start again, hoping Saints get a bonus point!” I resisted the temptation to tweet “Aye, a losing one”.

Away to last season’s losing finalists probably isn’t the game we want with the doom-mongers out in force this week following the admittedly poor performance at Gloucester. I was also not really impressed by Dean Richards’ quotes about some of the players acquitting themselves well, but then again our start to the season hasn’t been too bad.

If someone had said that by the middle of November we’d have won three league games, we’d be eleven points clear of the bottom team and for good measure top one point off top in the Challenge Cup, I’d probably have been happy. The performances haven’t been great in the main, perhaps Worcester away was the best I’ve seen, but I’ve always believed that you win games first, then the performances will come. After all, we don’t go to watch the team lose, however well they play.

Lets not forget that Northampton were relegated just six years ago, and since then have regained their status as one of England’s top clubs, losing the Challenge Cup final to Bourgoin in 2009, their first year back in the big time, and then winning the LV= Cup a year later. In 2011, only Leinster in the final in Cardiff prevented Northampton winning a second Heineken Cup, 11 years after their first.

Not a bad example for us to follow. It’ll be a long road but there’s no need to panic yet.

Back to tomorrow anyway, and a trip to one of the loveliest grounds in the Premiership – Franklin’s Gardens. Northampton are second in the table after seven games with 26 points, two behind Saracens, coming back strongly after last season’s final defeat to arch-rivals Leicester.

Jim Mallinder’s side have already drawn at Welford Road back in October, and their only defeat in the Premiership so far came in controversial circumstances at Kingsholm 26-24 in September, thanks to a late Gloucester penalty that combined with previous decisions had Saints supporters crying foul at referee Martin Fox. 23-24 up with minutes to go – he couldn’t have been that biased.

In amongst those results, Exeter were beaten with something to spare 38-11 at Franklin’s Gardens on opening day, before James Wilson’s try was the difference between the Saints and Harlequins at the Stoop, the away side triumphing 6-13 in a key top of the table battle. Sandwiched in between the Gloucester defeat and Tigers draw, Northampton returned home and got another bonus point from a 33-14 win against Sale, star summer signing George North among the scorers for his new club.

Following the European break, Saracens were thumped 41-20 between the lake and the pavilion, and then while we were losing at Allianz Park, the Saints temporarily went top by beating London Irish 16-23 in Reading.

In the cups, Northampton lost their opening game in the final Heineken Cup 19-13 at Castres before winning a crunch home encounter with Ospreys 27-16. They have also taken control of our own pool four in the LV= Cup, with nine points from games at home to Gloucester and away to Irish. I wouldn’t be betting on a visit to Exeter in March.

After making a debut against Exeter on opening day, the aforementioned North, one of the stars of the Lions series, has now made seven appearances for the Saints but has just that one try against Sale. He is one super Saint we will not have to worry about this weekend however after being included in the Wales team to play Tonga tonight. He has already scored for his country this autumn, against Argentina last Saturday.

I didn’t realise this, but North was actually born in King’s Lynn.

The other big signing of the summer was Alex Corbisiero from London Irish, also one of the summer’s top Lions, failed to make a start in the autumn friendlies but was on the bench against Argentina.

The likes of Ben Foden, Tom Wood and Courtney Lawes are also back after their few weeks with England, while former Falcon Lee Dickson has also recovered his starting place for country. His former KP colleague Phil Dowson appears to be a forgotten man as far as the national side is concerned.

At the age of 29 Stephen Myler, only the sixth player to score 1,000 Premiership points and a debutant for England in Argentina this summer, would seem to have an uphill struggle to get back into the Red Rose shirt ahead of Owen Farrell, Toby Flood and Freddie Burns, but centre Luther Burrell, a revelation since his transfer from Leeds in 2012, would seem to have time on his side.

Like many away grounds, we haven’t had the best of times in St James over the years, with only three away wins. The last was a crazy day in February 2009 when the Falcons, inspired by Tom May – who spent two seasons with the Saints until moving to London Welsh this summer – and Carl Hayman, went 0-19 up in the first half and held on for a 13-19 win.

More recently, there have been big defeats just over two and three years ago respectively. Previously, we won 9-16 in September 2005, when Dave Walder put in a superb show with a try and two drop-goals. Interestingly, of our starting 22 that day just eight years ago, only May, Mathew Tait and Geoff Parling are still playing pro rugby.

Falcons at Franklin’s:

15/02/1958 Club Match                            L6-33

28/12/1974 Cup 1st round                        W7-4

08/04/1989 Division 2                               L12-13

23/01/1993 Cup 4th round                       L3-33

30/04/1994 Division 1                               L23-43

12/11/1994 Club Match                            L0-12

06/04/1996 Division 2                               L5-26

31/01/1998 Premiership 1                       W21-17

28/02/1998 Cup QF                                   L7-17

27/03/1999 Premiership 1                       L16-57

26/12/1999 Premiership 1                       L5-37

18/11/2000 Premiership                           L18-26

09/03/2002 Cup SF                                    L7-38

12/05/2002 Premiership                           L19-24

07/09/2002 Premiership                           L13-31

18/10/2003 Premiership                           L20-33

15/04/2005 Premiership                           L22-23

17/09/2005 Premiership                           W16-9

03/09/2006 Premiership                           L23-25

28/02/2009 Premiership                           W19-13

13/02/2010 Premiership                           L13-25

30/10/2010 Premiership                           L13-34

29/10/2011 Premiership                           L15-44

 

With Dom Barrow injured (I know I know, but lets try not to panic), Fraser McKenzie partners Carlo del Fava in the second row with Scott MacLeod again on the bench. Scott Lawson is back from international duty and Oliver Tomaszczyk and Phil Godman come into the starting lineup.

Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.

Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Grant Shiells, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Scott MacLeod, 20 Chris York, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 James Fitzpatrick.

 

Jim Mallinder, who is not underestimating us, has named the following team for tomorrow:

15 Ben Foden, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 James Wilson, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 1 Alex Waller, 2 Mike Haywood, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 4 Courtney Laws, 5 Christian Day, 6 Calum Clark, 7 Phil Dowson (c), 8 Sam Dickinson.

Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 GJ Van Velze, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Alex Day, 22 Glenn Dickson, 23 Dom Waldouck.

 

I was going to just watch this game on the computer tomorrow but since there’s a night out in Manchester tonight with the lads, I’m halfway to Northampton already so might as well go the whole hog. Northampton is a hard place to go, it will a big challenge, it will be a very difficult game, but you never know.

Saints unoffy preview here.

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

Match reaction: Gloucester Rugby 20-3 Newcastle Falcons

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Saturday 16 November 2013 – 4.30pm

Kingsholm, Gloucester

LV= Cup Pools 1 and 4 #2

So the ‘Action Replay’ of the 2011 final went the same way as that game – a simple win for Gloucester.

It was like the old days last night: get the train to the game, meet some mates, have a few beers, watch the game, back to the pub, then leg it to the train.

“Leg it to the train”? Well, it was Gloucester. I got lost after nipping into the petrol station this time, rather than staying in the Kingsholm pub too long.

OK, maybe I did stay in the Kingsholm too long, as I didn’t have time to wait in the queue for me fish and chips, so I’ll definitely have to get to the league game in Gloucester in March.

Not too many away fans there yesterday. There were three of us originally, then a couple more turned up, and then there was the Wasps fan ans his teenage son in Teague’s. “Come on Falcons! My Mum’s a Falcons fan.” “Is she here?” “No.”

There was a bit of a subdued atmosphere in Kingsholm, maybe because it was a cup game, maybe because England had just lost, maybe because Gloucester won easily. There was predictable criticism of the referee whenever the home team didn’t get a decision, although I was miffed by some he gave to Gloucester.

The one slightly unsavoury moment for me was when James Simpson-Daniel was injured, and the medics carrying on a stretcher were shouted at by one or two fans to hurry up in a not very nice way. Not great. JSD did not look in a good way, lying on his side with his back bent, but fortunately it doesn’t seem to be a neck injury as it first looked from my view.

Anyway, other than that it was a pretty low-key affair that few people there will remember for a long time.

I’m not sure I’d say any of our players played particularly well, certainly the backs had little ball to work with so none stood out. Noah Cato and Ryan Shortland on the wings tackled well and Alex Tait shored up most things sent his way, in the forwards Carlo del Fava got through a lot of work. Kieran Brookes looked quite lively when he came on and I would expect he will start at Northampton next week.

Wasps defeat in Newport yesterday is good news for us, but we have dropped behind Scarlets in the pool 4 table on points difference. The Welshmen go to Saracens today, while top-of-the-table Northampton are at London Irish.  With another trip to Allianz Park coming up in the new year, it’s perhaps not likely that we’ll get to the semi-finals.

Still, it’s not that important. If yesterday helped at all with fitness or players getting to gel a bit better (probably more in defence than attack), and that helps to beat Northampton, then all will be well.

Some photos from the match on the Gloucester offy here.

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

Match preview: Gloucester Rugby v Newcastle Falcons

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Saturday 16 November 2013 – 4.30pm

Kingsholm, Gloucester

LV= Cup Pools 1 and 4 #2

I think most people would say that the Falcons have had a satisfactory, if not spectacular, start to the season in all three competitions.

The same cannot be said of Gloucester, probably the biggest underachievers of the professional era along with Northampton. Currently languishing in tenth place in the league with just two wins from seven games, the Cherry n Whites were well beaten by the Saints in their opening LV= Cup clash last Saturday.

In the Heineken Cup, fortunes have been mixed with a good 27-22 opening weekend win over Perpignan at Kingsholm followed up with a 26-10 defeat at Munster, a game for which Nigel Davies made an amazing 12 changes to his starting lineup. Some Gloucester fans were not impressed.

At Kingsholm, normally such a fortress, there have certainly been chinks in the walls. Sale won in the South West on the opening day of the season 16-22, while Exeter secured an incredible 12-29 victory in Gloucester a month later. Two weeks ago, Wasps became the third team to down Gloucester on their own turf in the league this season as a last-gasp Rob Cook try converted by Freddie Burns was only enough to give their side a bonus point.

Even the one Premiership game Gloucester have won at home this season, against Northampton 26-24 in September, was hugely controversial as Billy Twelvetrees’ late winning penalty causing massive anger at referee Martin Fox from Saints fans. The fact that he had allowed three tries for their team was not proof enough for everyone that Mr Fox had not been biased.

Down the years, Kingsholm has not been a happy hunting ground for the Falcons with just two victories, although both were pretty glorious. The first, on our way to the Premiership title in April 1998, was achieved with the help of two tries by Rob Andrew, who not for the last time made himself unpopular with the Shed. Paul Van-Zandvliet’s trip on a Gloucester attacker near the line was missed by referee John Pearson and we won 27-29.

That was it for a while, although there was the ugly racism dispute involving Olivier Azam and Epi Taione to spice things up in the early 2000s. Those of us who don’t know what really happened probably never will, and perhaps it’s better that way. Oh, and of course the bottom-placed Falcons were 0-20 up early in the second half away to top-of-the-table and cup winners Gloucester in April 2003 – one of the cruelest defeats I’ve seen.

Our last visit to Kingsholm for cup combat came in October 2007, a week after England had lost the World Cup Final to South Africa in Paris. Inspired by Tom May and the returning Toby Flood, it looked like tries from Ollie Phillips and Matt Thompson had given John Fletcher’s Falcons the win, but Willie Walker converted James Simpson-Daniel’s second try to steal a draw for the hosts.

The less said about our last cup meeting anywhere, the final in Northampton in March 2011, the better, at least on the field. We all had a good time off it though.

Back to Castle Grim though, and our last visit was (as if you could forget – nobody who was there ever will!) in April last year when the Falcons pulled off a stunning 20-29 victory, our first away to an English team for 13 months, to keep alive hopes of staying in the Premiership. I can still see Mark Wilson’s try now… only he and the referee seemed to know what was going on and it sent home fans teeming out in silence, while the travelling fans partied long into the night.

It was ‘The Miracle of Kingsholm’ and quite simply glorious.

Falcons in GL1:

25/02/1978             Cup 2nd round           L10-19

15/01/1994             Division 1                   L9-15

11/04/1998             Premiership 1           W29-27

17/10/1998             Premiership 1           L32-41

11/09/1999             Premiership 1           L16-31

23/12/2000             Premiership               L13-28

29/12/2001             Premiership               L25-29

18/05/2002             Championship QF     L9-60

12/04/2003             Premiership               L23-25

07/02/2004             Premiership               L12-36

25/09/2004             Premiership               L17-31

08/05/2005             Wildcard SF               L16-23

05/11/2005             Premiership               L20-27

24/03/2007             Premiership               L18-24

27/10/2007             Cup                                D18-18

23/02/2008             Premiership               L20-28

01/10/2008             Premiership               L23-39

05/12/2009             Premiership               L13-25

02/04/2011             Premiership               L9-34

14/04/2012             Premiership               W29-20

The Falcons will be looking for revenge tomorrow for Gloucester’s first win at KP in almost six years, which the Cherry n Whites took in September in a game that we should have won. So we should have no problem being up for it.

 

With Joel Hodgson turning out for Rotherham this weekend, Rory Clegg gets another turn at fly-half with Phil Godman on the bench. Zach Kibirige is also demoted and the backline looks pretty much first-choice, bar replacement Mike Blair. Rob Vickers is back in the starting lineup in an inexperienced (Vickers in his position anyway) front row, and Dom Barrow returns after missing his first game of the season last week.

Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Dom Barrow, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.

Replacements: 16 Kieran Brookes, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Grant Shiells, 19 Scott MacLeod, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Mike Blair, 22 Zach Kibirige, 23 Phil Godman.

Having played in the side that beat Japan at Kingsholm on Tuesday night, James Hudson misses out on a quick meeting with his former team-mates, but Nick Wood is back from suspension for Gloucester, who are marketing this game as a replay of the 2011 final.
Gloucester: Martyn Thomas; James Simpson-Daniel, Mike Tindall, Ryan Mills, Jonny May; Freddie Burns, Dan Robson; Nick Wood, Huia Edmonds, Shaun Knight; Elliott Stooke, Tom Savage (capt); Ross Moriarty, Andy Hazell, Matt Cox.Replacements: Dan George, Yann Thomas, Rupert Harden, Will James, Lewis Ludlow, Jimmy Cowan, Billy Burns, Rob Cook

 

I’m not sure if Teague’s is still open opposite the ground, but if so I’ll have to try to get in for a pint before it does close. Looking forward to the best fish and chips in rugby post-match too!

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

Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 29-21 London Irish

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Sunday 10 November 2013 – 3.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

LV= Cup Pools 1 and 4 #1

So we didn’t go to bingo night on Saturday in the end, and I wasn’t needed on the farm yesterday afternoon, so at 2.45pm I settled on the sofa with a can of Carling and flipped on the commentary on the internet. Fortunately, it seemed, the internet had started working again after being off for most of the weekend.

Just as Smithy introduced the minute’s silence (I think), it went off again, and the internet hasn’t worked since. Pretty annoying, and I sulked off to the garage to chop kindling for the fire. With no mobile signal, I couldn’t even follow Twitter. Fortunately, at the in-laws’ place there is a sliver of a signal and I was able to see the full-time score – excellent!

So I’m going just on fans’ opinions and internet reports here. It seems it was another case of the best forwards on the field beating the best backs – I’ve never been a slavish believer in “the forwards win the games, the backs decide by how much” but thank heavens for our pack so far this season.

It’s disappointing to hear that Zach Kibirige didn’t get much ball on his first game of the season, it wouldn’t seem there was much point in him playing then. I would also liked to have seen J0el Hodgson get a run-out, as suggested in the Journal this morning he must be scratching his head.

But on the other hand the team overall did enough and that’s always a good sign, even if the backs are continuing to misfire. James Fitzpatrick has had good reviews, he’s a player I quite like when he gets it right so hopefully he can get some form together now after a tricky year in the Championship.

Not much more I can say really, as I don’t know much about the match.

Just looking at the group table, we are second on points scored. Northampton are top with five points having hammered Gloucester, then we are next on four with Scarlets who beat fellow Welshmen Newport Gwent Dragons 21-13. Bottom are Wasps, who were downed by Saracens but got a losing bonus point.

It’s Gloucester away next and for myself a ten-hour round-trip on the train on Saturday. Guess I’ll find out how so many fans have felt over the years on lengthy coach trips.

And while most clubs might not lose any sleep over qualifying for the semis in this cup, I like a cup run so hopefully we can repeat our last visit to Kingsholm and get a win.

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

Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v London Irish

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Sunday 10 November 2013 – 3.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

LV= Cup Pools 1 and 4 #1

 

Doesn’t seem like there’s much to say here, since this is our second successive home game against London Irish following our victory in the Premiership two weeks ago.

 

LV= Cup fixtures are meant to avoid clashes with league games but we don’t always manage it – a few years ago we hosted Worcester in the Premiership six days before travelling to Sixways in the cup.

 

This game is far less important than that a fortnight ago, but a win in front of the home fans would still be nice, and a good cup run always boosts everyone’s spirits.

 

Irish’s spirits have of course been boosted by the signing of Australian talisman James O’Connor for the rest of the season, although on his debut for the Exiles on Sunday against Northampton at full-back uld not prevent the Saints going top of the league for an hour (until our pounding by Saracens was complete).

 

In the early years of the 21st century, back when the national cup was still a knockout competition involving lower league clubs, it was better. Much better. It also saw London Irish visit KP three times in four seasons. First was a quarter-final in 2000/01, which saw the Falcons avenge a league defeat in Reading days earlier with a 33-20 win. Liam Botham (remember him?), Va’aiga Tuigamala and Jonny Wilkinson (I’m sure we all remember those two) were the try-scorers. Ross Nesdale was in our team that day – it was a long time ago.

 

Two seasons later, cup-holders Irish gained their revenge with a 16-17 win in the sixth round in a game really only memorable for it being Mark Mayerhofler’s Falcons debut. We were bottom of the league and the only thing that made this worse was a 20-0 defeat at the Madejski a week later.

 

It was the Falcons turn for payback the following season however. Supporters cleared the pitch while Irish’s flight north on the morning of the game was diverted to Scotland but BBC got their live match. Dave Walder scored a full set with three penalties, a conversion, a try and a drop-goal to win the game alongside Stuart Grimes’ try 24-12 and put us into a third semi-final in four seasons.

 

One memory I have of that game is Matt Thompson being taken off the field for treatment and being sat on one of the many piles of snow around the pitch – probably didn’t make him feel that much better!

 

Two years ago we met Irish in the LV= Cup in Reading and lost 39-23 to a team that has since lost its full back five – Delon Armitage, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Shontayne Hape and Adam Thompstone. Mind, of our starting forwards only Ally Hogg and Mark Wilson are still at KP, and only Chris Pilgrim, Alex Tait and Jamie Helleur of the backs. Helleur was among the try-scorers for the Falcons with Greg Goosen and Joe Graham the others.

 

It wasn’t a great game but I have some nice off-the-pitch reasons to remember that weekend.

 

 

Zach Kibirige makes his first start of the season for the Falcons tomorrow while fellow youngsters Glen Young and Tom Penny could make a debut from the bench. Mike Blair and Dom Barrow are rested with Scott Lawson on the bench, but another Scottish international Scott MacLeod is back in the team and Tom Catterick returns.

 

Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Zach Kibirige, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Chris York.

 

Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Glen Young, 20 Harrison Collins, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Tom Penny.

 

 

O’Connor misses out for Irish but Shane Geraghty, named captain, has a chance to redeem himself for his late penalty miss in the league game a fortnight ago.

 

London Irish: 15 Alex Lewington, 14 Tom Fowlie, 13 Guy Armitage, 12 Setaimata Sa, 11, Andrew Fenby, 10 Shane Geraghty (capt), 9, Darren Allinson, 8 Blair Cowam, 7 Danny Kenny, 6 Declan Danaher, 5 Kieran Low, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Mike Mayhew, 1 Matt Parr.
Replacements: 16 Richard Palframan, 17 Johnny Harris, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Bryn Evans, 20 Ben Lonergan, 21 Fergus Mulchrone, 22 Myles Dorrian, 23 Ed Hoadley.

 

 

Unfortunately it turns out I’m not going to make it this game – bingo night in the village hall tonight followed by a couple of hours on the farm tomorrow lunchtime but should make a hot date with Smithy and John Pearson in the afternoon. Hopefully with no Premiership points at stake and with a fast back three, it should be an entertaining game.

 

 

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