Thursday 16 January 2014 – 7.30pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 3 #6
This is a game for only the hardest of hardcore fans – a (practically) dead rubber against a Romanian side on a Thursday night in January.
Following last Thursday’s forgettable loss at home to Brive, we now have 15 points in second place in Pool 3, while the Frenchmen have 18. Therefore we need to get four more points against Bucharest than Brive do at home to Calvisano, which is on French TV (hence our game’s bizarre scheduling).
Stranger things have happened, and indeed the Italians did hold Mike Blair’s old side to a draw at home back in October, but I don’t think anybody is expecting us to have a game on the first weekend of April.
That’s a shame really, as a cup run could have helped boost morale and a big quarter-final at KP would have been something to look forward to. Never mind, onwards and upwards.
This might be our last European match for a while if the foofaraw over the competitions for next season are not sorted out sufficiently to allow for English clubs to compete. If it isn’t, as seems likely, then it’ll be a massive shame as the Heineken Cup is one of the most exciting and high quality competitions in sport.
The pool stage in particular makes the football Champions League’s groups look as exciting as watching paint dry.
Speaking of which, lets get back to the match tomorrow night. The Wolves from the Romanian capital have ten points and would overtake us into second place with a bonus point win by more than seven points, for what that is worth.
Last Saturday afternoon saw Bucharest win 11-23 in Calvisano with tries from Florin Bardasu and Viorel Lucaci, and 13 points from fly-half Florin Vlaicu. That secured a double over the Italians, after a 37-15 home trouncing in October, to condemn them to the Pool 3 wooden spoon. Prior to that, they ran Brive relatively close twice in December, losing 13-18 in Romania and 20-9 in France.
A number of changes to the starting lineup sees a rare start for Alex Crockett while Chris York continues in the back row. George McGuigan, Oliver Tomaszczyk, Fraser McKenzie and Andy Saull are also in while James Fitzpatrick keeps his place from last week. Joel Hodgson and Mike Blair are concussed, meaning Rory Clegg and Chris Pilgrim wear the half-back shirts.
Falcons: 15 Noah Cato, 14 Tom Catterick, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Chris Pilgrim, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Will Welch (c), 7 Andy Saull, 8 Chris York.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 James Hallam, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Phil Godman, 23 Adam Powell.
Note that kick-off tomorrow night is 7.30pm, a bit earlier than usual.
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