Saturday 16 November 2013 – 4.30pm
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.
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.
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)