Sunday 1 December 2013 – 2.30pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Aviva Premiership #9
Looking at the message board, it seems like today’s game was not all bad. I guess you can see more on TV. But at Kingston Park, the general opinion seemed to be that the Falcons were, to put it mildly, pretty poor today.
That was certainly my view. Harlequins’ forwards were strong in the scrum and quicker in the breakdown, and once our normal areas of strength were neutralised, we had absolutely no alternative. The backs had no imagination, struggled to put together what looked to be relatively simple plays.
The first half was pretty flat, and there was a derisory atmosphere around the ground. Maybe Harlequins were surprised at how easy it was for them, since our players just didn’t really turn up and made a lot of silly errors. I felt the visitors had another couple of gears in them, and after the break they turned up the heat and got their bonus point.
I don’t want to turn this into another backs-bashing exercise – indeed, I actually thought Phil Godman didn’t have a bad game today. He got most of the basics right, which has not been the case in every game this season, and kicked well enough. Unfortunately, the whole plan just seemed so predictable. In the first half, we kicked the ball away too much with little idea of why, and in the second half we didn’t have enough possession to employ this tactic.
The 6,000+ crowd were pretty quiet. When Quins got their bonus point try with 12 minutes left, I can’t imagine a single person in KP would have complained had the referee blown for full-time right then. I myself would have made the 17.10 to Carlisle, but as it was the 18.02 was the East Coast Skyfall train on diversion on the way to Glasgow, so that was a bit cool.
Positives? As I said I thought Godman had a decent game, Richard Mayhew and Fraser McKenzie got through a lot of work and Noah Cato didn’t do anything wrong. Some good individual shows, but as a team it just didn’t happen. Why? Who knows. One fan beside me reckoned that the team just aren’t practicing backs moves, and it’s hard not to have some sympathy with that viewpoint when passes go into touch or empty spaces.
Then again, the moves we do come up with are predictable and there is not a lot of invention or trickery. Just side-to-side and defences in the Premiership find them easy to cope with. Heck, by the end of last season we were starting to struggle to score tries against Championship teams.
As I said after Northampton last week, I think something has to change. Not the management, they have massive experience and Dean Richards and John Wells have topped the table before, but we try the same things again and again and it’s not working.
Worcester don’t look like winning a game any time soon so we are probably not going to go down again, but Richards says he is looking upwards anyway. That’s the right thing to do. However, the way we have been playing in recent away games and yesterday, we won’t be troubling the top six any time soon.
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