Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks

Finding-Nemo-Shark-Wallpaper-HD

Friday 3 January 2014 – 7.45pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #12

The Falcons kick off 2014 with the second of four successive home games, and one that we dare not lose. Sale have only ever won once at Kingston Park, on the opening day of the 2008/09 season, and the Falcons will be looking to keep that record going and build on last week’s bonus point defeat to Wasps.

There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to beat the Sharks – the Falcons have already triumphed in Salford this season. Four Phil Godman penalties and a winning kick by Rory Clegg secured our first win back in the Premiership as the missed conversion of home captain Dan Braid’s try proved costly for Steve Diamond’s side.

That game followed Sale’s season-opening 16-22 win at Gloucester, but in round three the Sharks got back on track by downing Wasps 26-22 at the AJ Bell Stadium, Danny Cipriani scoring 21 points after coming off the bench. They were then soundly beaten at Northampton before defeating Bath at home to end the first phase of this season’s league matches.

Defeats away to Harlequins and at home to Exeter followed before a win over Worcester and a 24-19 loss at Saracens. Sale’s mixed form has continued over Christmas – last week’s 30-23 defeat at Leicester came on the heels of a 15-3 win against London Irish days before Yuletide. In front of a sell-out crowd at Welford Road, the Sharks did themselves proud, attracting criticism from Richard Cockerill for their scrum tactics. A second-half comeback that included a try by former Falcon Charlie Ingall was not enough to steal a victory though.

In the LV= Cup this season Sale have lost at home to Bath and beaten Harlequins away in another example of their unpredictability. In Europe however, they look in a strong position to qualify for the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals, having beaten Biarritz at home and Worcester away in October before a win and a draw against Oyonnaux before Christmas. Sale currently head Pool 1 with 15 points, one more than Biarritz ahead of their televised final-round clash in two weeks.

Gosforth first played Sale back in March 1951, losing 11-12 at Heywood Road before winning 17-0 at home a year later. The Sharks are the only current Premiership team we have a positive record against, with 46 wins and 30 defeats in our 81 meetings over the past 63 years. At home, that record improves to 31 wins and just six losses from 40 games.

Sale’s aforementioned only win at Kingston Park in September 2008, by a score of 9-14, was achieved with a first-half try by Charlie Hodgson and three penalties by Luke McAlister. Mathew Tait made his Sharks debut at full-back, having moved from KP in the summer, while for the Falcons Rory Clegg kicked two penalties and a drop-goal on his full debut. Our team that day was: A Tait, May Noon, Davey (Visser), Rudd, Clegg (Jones), Grindal, McDonnell (Ward), Long, Hayman, Sorenson, Buist (Parling), Balding (Swinson), B Wilson, Dowson.

Our two most recent hostings of the Mancs are notable for the first being Gary Gold’s debut in charge, and the second giving us some hope of staying in the Premiership back in 2012.  It was Peter Stringer’s first game at KP and after a poor first half, Tim Swinson’s try set the ground alight and made for probably our best home atmosphere of the season.

Sale on Brunton Road:

22/09/1990 Division 2                   W7-6

26/09/1992 Division 2                   W7-3

03/12/1994 Club Match                W40-7

10/03/1998 Premiership 1           W23-18

20/12/1998 Premiership 1           W30-15

29/12/1999 Premiership 1           W12-6

06/01/2001 Cup SF                         W37-25

11/03/2001 Premiership               W48-24

31/03/2002 Premiership               W30-10

27/10/2002 Premiership               W31-20

21/09/2003 Premiership               W9-8

02/01/2005 Premiership               W30-29

02/10/2005 Cup                             W34-9

16/04/2006 Premiership               W32-21

26/12/2006 Premiership               W40-25

16/09/2007 Premiership               W33-12

07/09/2008 Premiership               L9-14

13/09/2009 Premiership               D16-16

07/01/2011 Premiership               D19-19

29/01/2012 Cup                             W37-7

30/03/2012 Premiership               W22-19

Sinoti Sinoti makes his Falcons debut tomorrow in place of Ryan Shortland, while Ally Hogg is captain as Andy Saull replaces Will Welch. Scott MacLeod starts for the first time in a while and Mike Blair is back too.

Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Andy Saull, 8 Ally Hogg (c).

Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Franck Montanella, 18 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 James Fitzpatrick.

Sale team, containing for Falcon Rob Miller: 1 – Ross Harrison 2 – Thomas Taylor 3 – Vadim Cobilas 4 – Jonathan Mills 5 – Michael Paterson 6 – Dan Braid (Captain) 7 – David Seymour 8 – James Gaskell 9 – Dwayne Peel 10 – Danny Cipriani 11 – Mark Cueto 12 – Sammy Tuitupou 13 – Jonny Leota 14 – Thomas Brady 15 – Robert Miller.

Replacements: 16 – Marc Jones 17 – Eifion Lewis-Roberts 18 – Henry Thomas 19 – Andrei Ostrikov 20 – Viliami Fihaki 21 – Will Cliff 22 – Nick Macleod 23 – Phil Mackenzie.

This game is a bit of a must-win for the Falcons really. Sale are eighth in the table so it should be winnable and if we can get the points then we will pull further away from either London Irish or Worcester, or maybe both, those two teams clashing in Reading on Saturday. It will not be easy, but a decent performance and four points will allow us to capitalise on the fightback against Wasps and get a bit of feel-good around the place. That’s something we really need.

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

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