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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