Friday 27 December 2013 – 7.45pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Aviva Premiership #11
There seems to be a lot of negativity going around about last night’s match. There were certainly some parts that were frustrating, and with a bit more nous we could well have won, but I don’t agree with some comments that it was a “terrible” performance. It was far better than the game at Exeter, and certainly a big improvement on Harlequins.
I’d also disagree on the performances of some players – I thought Chris Pilgrim had a good game, his passing was a lot quicker and sharper than Warren Fury has shown. His box kicks often weren’t the correct option but Phil Godman standing so deep often didn’t help.
The two Wasps tries came about from our own mistakes, the first by playing in our own five-metre zone and bringing the ball in front of goal to allow Wasps to use the posts to their advantage, and the second from a botched dribble by Noah Cato. To be fair to Cato, we were two on three so the dribble might have worked, and other than two errant attempts to knock the ball through the defence he did little wrong all night.
I’d have given Scott Lawson the man of the match award, the lineout functioned well (not all down to the hooker I know but the throw is a big part of it), he was everywhere around the pitch and made some good carries and tackles. I noticed this because I’d been thinking Lawson has not done much since making his debut in October, and perhaps George McGuigan was worth a start.
Jamie Helleur looked probably the most dangerous back on his return from injury and James Fitzpatrick was used to decent effect.
My major beef with last night was that for the first ten minutes the Falcons built a platform with the ball in hand and made some good progress. Then we allowed Wasps back into the game, and with a heavy wind on our backs sent some wild kicks forward but rarely put pressure on the Wasps backs. Later in the second half, I guess the wind made a kicking game too dangerous so we kept the ball for the most part and, although it took a long time, amazingly we finally got into the 22 and it yielded a try to give us a bonus point.
The defensive kicking game has not worked this season (as we say so often), finally we tried something different and it resulted in two tries and a bonus point. If we hadn’t made the mistakes that ended up in conceding two tries, who knows what might have happened? So there is definitely cause for encouragement – if we learn from this game.
It seemed after the game that opinion was split on the performance between those that have seen games like Exeter and Gloucester away, and therefore know the depths we have been to this season, and those who didn’t, although most of us will have seen Harlequins and last night was far better than that game.
This season we’ve seen some crazy use of the TMO at games, most notably Brive, but last night was something else. There appeared to most people to be a clear knock-on just before Wasps’ first try – the TV replays showed it – yet between them the referee and TMO gave the score. Then late in the second half one of our players was deliberately knocked over chasing a kick into the 22. It appears to have been a linesman that saw it as Wayne Barnes didn’t give any signal at the time. To miss it in real time is fair enough, but for it to go to the TMO and no penalty to be given was unbelievable. The worst decision I’ve seen in a long time.
Still, we can’t blame the referee for letting Wasps take the game to us for a long period when we had the wind.
I don’t think there is any reason to celebrate a losing bonus point in itself, but the manner of our recovery late in the game gives optimism if we learn from it and realise what has worked and what has not. We have another winnable game against Sale next week so no reason not to go out and try to take the game to the Sharks.
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)