Friday 27 December 2013 – 7.45pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Aviva Premiership #11
Tonight is the first of two crucial home games in the Premiership for the Falcons. Next Friday night Sale come to KP, but before that it’s Wasps in front of the BT Sport cameras in our final outing of 2013.
After four league matches without a point or a try, and just 15 points in total (as if you didn’t know), this is a fantastic chance for Dean Richards and his side to show that they really aren’t content just to survive in the top division this season but are serious about mixing it with the big boys.
We’re ten points clear of bottom-placed Worcester who could only manage a losing bonus point at a below-bar Gloucester on Sunday, with a supposedly hungry squad that we are told will eventually play attractive and winning rugby. Lets go for it tonight and show the fight that was lacking against Harlequins.
We have a mixed record at home to Wasps since their first trip north in March 1980 that saw a 12-0 win for Gosforth. Overall, meetings between the two sides in Newcastle (plus one in Gateshead in 1998) have seen eleven Falcons wins, thirteen victories for Wasps and two draws.
The Falcons have won the last two games against Wasps at KP however, in September 2010 and October 2011. In the latter, Jimmy Gopperth’s five penalties secured our first win of the season, the visitors’ Christian Wade scoring the only try of the day. Gopperth also scored five penalties in the 2010/11 match, alongside converting Tim Swinson and Redford Pennycook’s tries.
I doubt many of the 500-odd Falcons fans who were at our last meeting with Wasps have forgotten it, or will forget it any time soon. It was of course the final match of the 2011/12 season and a straight relegation shootout between the two teams in High Wycombe. The Falcons needed four tries or a big win with penalties to overhaul Wasps and stay up, but Wade’s first-half try, converted by Nicky Robinson, who added a penalty, left us 10-0 down at the break.
Backed by a vociferous and jovial away following, the Falcons rallied after half-time and James Fitzpatrick and Peter Stringer’s tries gave us a 10-14 win. It was not enough to avoid a season in the Championship, but it was a fantastic afternoon. One of the best atmospheres I’ve ever known at a rugby match.
Falcons v Wasps:
29/03/1980 North Road Club Match W12-0
11/02/1984 North Road Cup R3 D12-12
31/03/1984 North Road Club Match L6-44
29/10/1988 North Road Club Match L15-19
29/09/1990 Kingston Park Club Match L13-19
12/09/1992 Kingston Park Club Match D3-3
29/01/1994 Kingston Park Division 1 L16-18
17/12/1994 Kingston Park Cup R4 L12-58
07/04/1998 Kingston Park Premiership 1W20-13
11/10/1998 Gateshead Premiership 1W27-19
12/03/2000 Kingston Park Premiership 1L8-34
23/09/2000 Kingston Park Premiership W59-21
16/12/2001 Kingston Park Cup R6 W24-22
27/01/2002 Kingston Park Premiership L22-23
01/09/2002 Kingston Park Premiership W24-17
29/11/2003 Kingston Park Premiership L20-23
06/02/2005 Kingston Park Premiership W29-28
27/11/2005 Kingston Park Premiership W17-15
23/02/2007 Kingston Park Premiership W37-11
07/05/2008 Kingston Park Premiership L12-23
24/10/2008 Kingston Park Cup L13-26
28/11/2008 Kingston Park Premiership L17-23
08/05/2010 Kingston Park Premiership L21-25
10/09/2010 Kingston Park Premiership W29-17
02/10/2011 Kingston Park Premiership W15-10
Wasps currently lie at the bottom of the top eight mini-league in the Premiership on 23 points, six ahead of Gloucester and looking to kick on and get into the playoffs. Although they lost at home to Northampton last Saturday, Dai Young’s team did manage to get a bonus point in the 15-17 reverse. Wasps’ last away outing in the league was in Reading in November, where a penalty try and Andy Goode’s boot gave the Insects a 12-19 victory.
They have also beaten Gloucester away in the Premiership this season, but lost at Exeter, Sale and Saracens in the early weeks of the campaign. Grenoble (7-47) and Viadana (17-90) have posed little trouble in Europe though.
The Falcons are without Mike Blair tonight, though Jamie Helleur is fully back from injury and starts alongside James Fitzpatrick. Will Welch is back in the starting lineup too and Franck Montanella and Mark Wilson make welcome returns from injury on the bench.
Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Jamie Helleur, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Warren Fury, 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 Franck Montanella, 18 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Danny Barnes.
Wasps: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Will Helu, 13 Chris Bell (c), 12 Charlie Hayter, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Charlie Davies, 1 Matt Mullan, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 4 Tom Palmer, 5 Joe Launchbury, 6 Ashley Johnson, 7 James Haskell, 8 Sam Jones.
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Taione Vea, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 James Cannon, 20 Ed Jackson, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Joe Carlisle, 23 Andrew Suniula.
Obviously we all want a win tonight, but more than that, since we have a big crowd turning out, I hope we see a performance that will persuade people to come back next week and for the European games in January. What a happy new year all of that would make!
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)