Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Leicester Tigers

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Sunday 2 March 2014 – 2.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #16

 

Hopefully on Sunday afternoon I’ll be feeling really fresh after a calm weekend away, ready to watch the Falcons beat Leicester, perhaps with a sneaky can of beer.

 

More likely I’ll be feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck, wishing for full-time so I can sleep and recover after my brother’s stag weekend. It’s probably going to be brutal, although fortunately we’re getting an hour and a half off on Saturday afternoon since we’ll be at a football match.

 

Fortunately the Falcons-Leicester game is on TV so no way I’m rushing back to Newcastle. It could be a cracker. Certainly, with the Tiggers having their worst season for probably ten years, we’ll probably never have a better chance to beat them. In fourth place, fourteen points behind second-placed Saracens, it looks like Leicester will have to settle for an away semi-final in the playoffs, if they win the tense battle they are in to get there.

 

Bath are looking good in third with 49 points, Leicester have 44, with Harlequins and Sale on 41 and 39 respectively. Richard Cockerill’s side overtook Harlequins on Sunday with a 15-20 win at London Irish after the Queens were downed at Worcester 23 hours earlier. Niki Goneva, Ben Youngs and Logovi’i Mulipola were the try-scorers for the travelling Midlanders.

 

Leicester are five games unbeaten in the Premiership at the moment since a 49-10 trouncing at Saracens just before Christmas and have also this month had tight wins at Worcester and at home to Gloucester. As well as success at the Madejski and ever-so-tensely at Sixways, the Tigers have won at Exeter and Gloucester in the league as well as at Montpellier and Treviso in the Heineken Cup to help secure a quarter-final at Clermont Auvergne.

 

Leicester normally provide a decent proportion of the England team but their last representative in Stuart Lancaster’s Six Nations squad, Dan Cole, has joined Geoff Parling and Tom Croft on the injured list. The Youngs brothers are out of favour too. Surely players like Jordan Crane and Graham Kitchener will not be too far away from the national side however. Club captain Toby Flood’s England career appears to be over after he was overlooked for the current campaign and has agreed to move to France in the summer.

 

The Tigers have a good record at KingstonPark in recent years with three successive victories in the North East before our relegation. The last of those games was an epic Saturday afternoon meeting in September 2011, when Kieran Brookes and Micky Young made quick returns to KP with their new club and Brookes sadly suffered a serious injury from which his Leicester career never really recovered. James Grindal started and now-retired Ben Woods was on the bench with Brookes and Young.

 

The Falcons were 11-11 at half-time but were finally squeezed out 26-27 forty minutes later. The Falcons’ try-scorers were Luke Fielden, Tim Swinson and the lesser-spotted Greg Goosen, with Jimmy Gopperth converting one and adding three penalties. Billy Twelvetrees’ four lazy penalties earned him boos and the short-lived nickname Billy Twelveminutes, along with tries from Ed Slater, Steve Mafi and Falcons transfer target Julian Salvi.

 

Tiggers in Newcastle:

15/04/1974      North Road                  Club Match                  W28-18

19/04/1976      North Road                  Club Match                  W27-9

20/04/1985      North Road                  Club Match                  W20-6

15/04/1989      North Road                  Club Match                  L14-47

22/02/1992      KingstonPark              Cup QF                          L0-10

09/10/1993      KingstonPark              Division 1                     L13-22

22/02/1997      KingstonPark              Cup QF                           L8-18

04/05/1998      Gateshead                    Premiership 1               W27-10

02/05/1999      KingstonPark              Premiership 1               L12-21

05/11/1999      KingstonPark              Premiership 1               D12-12

27/08/2000      KingstonPark              Premiership                  L22-25

02/09/2001      KingstonPark              Premiership                  W19-16

16/03/2003      KingstonPark              Premiership                  W24-22

04/04/2004      KingstonPark              Premiership                  D25-25

02/10/2004      KingstonPark              Premiership                  L15-44

24/02/2006      KingstonPark              Premiership                  W24-16

07/01/2007      KingstonPark              Premiership                  W31-29

04/05/2008      KingstonPark              Premiership                  W28-25

27/03/2009      KingstonPark              Premiership                  W14-10

18/04/2010      KingstonPark              Premiership                  L7-31

22/04/2011      KingstonPark              Premiership                  L13-24

17/09/2011      KingstonPark              Premiership                  L26-27

 

Lee Smith makes his Falcons debut on the left wing and Phil Godman, Andy Saull, Kieran Brookes and Scott Lawson return to the starting line-up. The final change is Adam Powell in for Jamie Helleur.

 

Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Lee Smith, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Scott MacLeod, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 6 Will Welch (c), 7 Andy Saull, 8 Mark Wilson.

 

Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Chris York, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Danny Barnes.

 

 

Tigers team:

15 Mathew Tait, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Dan Bowden, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Ben Youngs,1 Marcos Ayerza, 2 Tom Youngs, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 4 Louis Deacon, 5 Ed Slater (c), 6 Jamie Gibson, 7 Pablo Matera, 8 Jordan Crane.

 

Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 David Mele, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Adam Thompstone.

 

 

Word is that this game could be a sell-out – I can’t remember the last time we last had a full house. If ever there was a time for a big performance, this is it. The next home game is Worcester and a win with a big effort should get a couple of hundred extra tickets shifted for the Warriors game at least. The last two games surely haven’t been flukes, lets keep things going and get a win on Sunday!

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir: @SouthStandChoir)

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Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 16-22 Northampton Saints

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Sunday 23 February 2014 – 3.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #15

 

It was a day for exciting endings in sport in Newcastle. Not only did Newcastle United get a last-minute winner, but the Falcons piled the pressure on top-of-the-table Northampton and got a late try to secure a precious bonus point, which takes us twelve points clear of Worcester.

 

We lost, but for the second week in a row we played very well and illustrious opponents will be glad to get away with the win.

 

I think the only other time we’ve been so happy with a bonus-point defeat was against Bath at the end of 2010/11 – that is certainly the only other time I can remember a losing team kicking the ball out to end the game. For once, there was a bit of a positive vibe around Kingston Park after the final whistle.

 

Is that negative? Perhaps. But on the other hand, we had battered the Saints for most of the second half and only managed to score one try – with a six-point deficit, all it needed was for us to concede a stupid penalty and Northampton could have took that away from us had they gone for goal. Better to save the bonus point I think.

 

Two good performances in a row that could have been wins, indeed probably would have been against lesser opponents. I wonder if things are finally coming together. In the first half today, I think we were simply outplayed by a high-speed and high-quality Saints side who were streetwise at the breakdown and clinical in their finishing.

 

Conceding three tries isn’t great, but remember that better teams than us have taken poundings off the Jimmies this season. The defence was pretty solid the rest of the time.

 

If our attack had been as clinical as Northampton’s, we’d have won the game. A loose pass here, a dropped ball there… these things happen. We’re not a great side, heck in Premiership terms we’re not really a good side, but things are looking up. If we keep working hard, keep working on plays, I think we’ll improve.

 

Just frustrating that it’s taken this long to see progress!

 

Individually, I thought Scott MacLeod was outstanding today, getting through a mountain of work around the pitch as well as being reliable in the line-out. Rory Clegg and Mike Blair show signs of developing into a decent partnership, and Joel Hodgson looked lively on his cameo, nailing a tricky conversion in the wind to claim our bonus point.

 

Somebody asked me today what I think of the coaching setup. My opinion is that a team coming up into the Premiership always finds things very difficult, for a number of reasons. We aren’t going to go down, so there’s no need to panic. Perhaps this time next season, or the end of next season, is the time to see whether the regime look like they will fulfill their potential.

 

The last two games give us hope. We’ll probably never get a better chance to beat Leicester, and if we play like today and last week, then there’s no reason we can’t break our losing run against the Tigers next week.

 

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

Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints

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Sunday 23 February 2014 – 3.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #15

This Sunday was so nearly a glorious homecoming for the Falcons, if only we could have held out for a win at Harlequins last Saturday. As it is, that game must be a massive morale-booster ahead of two immensely hard home games against Northampton and Leicester.

The table-topping Saints are first up this weekend, fresh off doing us a big favour by denying Worcester a losing bonus point at Franklin’s Gardens. That game was a tenth successive victory for Jim Mallinder’s side, who haven’t lost since their 7-40 home humiliation by Leinster in the Heineken Cup at the start of December.

Revenge the following week in Dublin and two European wins last month weren’t enough to get the Saints into the last eight of the Heineken, but the Saints are still very much on for a treble this season. They dropped into the Amlin Cup for a quarter-final at Sale in April, meet Saracens at the Gardens in the LV= Cup next month, and are one point ahead of the Fez Boyz in the race for the Premiership playoff home ties.

That is a two-horse race really, with Saracens a further ten points ahead of Bath in third.

Only one side has so far beaten Northampton in the league this season, and that was in highly-controversial fashion when Gloucester’s Billy Twelvetrees kicked a late penalty at Kingsholm way back in September to give the Shedheads a 26-24 win. Two weeks later, an epic game at Welford Road ended Leicester 19 Northampton 19, but since then it has all been up for the Saints as they look to go one better than last year’s final defeat to the Tigers.

Apart from Gloucester and Leinster, the only other team to get the better of Northampton this season were Castres in France on the opening weekend of European combat.

Our task is made a little easier on Sunday by the absence of Luther Burrell, Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and Lee Dickson, who are all in the England 23 to take on Ireland at Twickenham tomorrow. The talismanic George North is also in the Wales midfield for their game at home to France tonight. I guess that’s tonight’s viewing sorted then.

In fact, both teams will be missing international hookers, as Scott Lawson packs down for Scotland in Rome tomorrow.

It’s so long since the Falcons have beaten Northampton that since then Tom May has left us, spent two years at Toulon, two years at Franklin’s Gardens and then moved to London Welsh. That game in February 2009 was perhaps his finest hour in a Newcastle shirt however. Jonny Golding and Danny Williams scored early tries before May broke from the halfway line, adding the conversion himself to put us 0-19 up after ten minutes and eventually the win came by a scoreline of 13-19.

That completed our second double over Northampton in the professional era, the Saints having been beaten 32-22 in the North East the previous September on Jonny Wilkinson’s penultimate appearance in Newcastle. The Jimmies do not have a terrible record at KP and have won on all of their previous three trips north, stretching back to November 2009. Perhaps the most entertaining encounter on Brunton Road came in November 1998.

It was the Falcons’ first game back at our true home after a few games in Gateshead and it was points galore with Rob Andrew’s champions winning 45-35. Va’aiga Tuigamala, Gary Armstrong, Richard Arnold and Peter Walton scored four of our tries with Wilkinson crossing for the other two. Jonny converted all six and added a penalty. The Saints scored four tries of their own, one of which came from former Falcon Richard Metcalfe. Garry Pagel scored twice and Dominic Malone crossed for the other. Northampton stalwart Ali Hepher, who played one friendly for Gosforth in the mid-nineties, kicked three conversions and two penalties for a green, black and gold side captained by Pat Lam that featured Andy Blyth as a third ex-Falcon in the starting line-up.

Northampton in Newcastle:

03/12/1961      North Road                 Club Match     W9-6

01/02/1986      North Road                 Cup R3           D6-6

31/03/1990      Percy Park                  Division 2       L15-22

01/09/1991      Kingston Park             Club Match     W32-12

11/12/1993      Kingston Park             Division 1       L8-28

21/10/1995      Kingston Park             Division 2       L9-52

08/10/1997      Kingston Park             Premiership 1  W37-12

15/11/1998      Kingston Park             Premiership 1  W45-35

21/05/2000      Kingston Park             Premiership 1  L23-32

20/08/2000      Kingston Park             Premiership     W27-21

02/12/2001      Kingston Park             Premiership     L13-28

20/04/2003      Kingston Park             Premiership     W22-20

28/12/2003      Kingston Park             Premiership     W23-19

28/11/2004      Kingston Park             Premiership     W27-16

26/03/2006      Kingston Park             Premiership     L13-32

06/04/2007      Kingston Park             Premiership     W16-7

14/09/2008      Kingston Park             Premiership     W32-22

27/11/2009      Kingston Park             Premiership     L8-28

15/04/2011      Kingston Park             Premiership     L15-22

31/12/2011      Kingston Park             Premiership     L14-32

Two of the changes to the Falcons’ side from the Stoop last week are forced, with Matt Thompson in for Lawson and Ally Hogg returning to the starting lineup as Andy Saull is injured. Oliver Tomaszczyk starts in place of Kieran Brookes and Alex Tait and Noah Cato swap shirt numbers again.

Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Scott MacLeod, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg

Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Chris York, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Adam Powell

Phil Dowson captains the Saints:

Northampton: 15 James Wilson, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 1 Alex Waller, 2 Mike Haywood, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 4 Samu Manoa, 5 Christian Day, 6 Calum Clark, 7 Phil Dowson (c), 8 Sam Dickinson.

Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 GJ van Velze, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Alex Day, 22 Glenn Dickson, 23 Ben Foden.

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

Match reaction: Harlequins 18-14 Newcastle Falcons

Saturday 15 February 2014 – 3.00pm
The Twickenham Stoop, London
Aviva Premiership #14

Agonising! That’s what it was. The Falcons may have lost an eighth league game in a row yesterday but they put in a fantastic performance to so nearly win at Harlequins.

In the end, a bonus point restores the advantage over Worcester at the bottom of the table to eleven points with two more games down, but it could have been more.

There was passion, there was courage, there was intelligence, there was speed, all that was lacking was clinical finishing.

It was a performance to be proud of that gives us hope for the rest of the season. The best show in the Premiership for a long time.

Our team went out there and were not content to just sit back and wait for the inevitable, they stood up and took on Harlequins with the aim of showing we can compete in the Premiership.

For a lot of the second half we were in control, I don’t know if Quins slacked off or we picked up, but Alex Tait’s try was fully deserved when it came and while it cranked up the noise from the away fans another notch, the home crowd seemed stunned.

Overall there was a flat atmosphere at the Stoop I felt. Maybe the Quins fans expected a simple five-pointer and when their internationally-depleted side made heavy work of things, they got disgruntled.

If we’d got more points when we were on top, it could have been different. If Rory Clegg had kicked the points he missed (though Ben Botica also missed a couple in the strong wind) then it might have been different.

This was a defeat and that’s not good, four points and a first league win for over four months would have been very welcome. But we got one point and better teams than us will still get thumped by Quins this season.

Lets go out next week and take Northampton on, put them under pressure and make sure they know they’ve been in a game. Last week at the Rec we didn’t do that. Yesterday at the Stoop, we did. The results speak for themselves.

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

Match reaction: Bath Rugby 24-6 Newcastle Falcons

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Saturday 8 February 2014 – 3.00pm
The Recreation Ground, Bath
Aviva Premiership #13

The morning after the night before in Bath. It’s already better than the last time I woke up after matchday down here – my knee isn’t shooting and the fire alarm didn’t go off at 8am. My head? Meh.

The Supporters Club should do more of these overnight trips, we certainly have enough long distance games to do them. It was great to meet new people last night, put names to faces, and learn more about people I’ve been seeing at the match for years.

The game? Another meh. At half-time I really couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen a half of rugby dominated so much by one team. Until our equalising penalty don’t think the ball was in Bath’s half except for when we kicked off after Bath scored their kick, and yet the Plugs never looked like scoring a try really. We defended fantastically.

I can’t say we played well though. If we had 25% possession in the first half I’d be surprised. We offered nothing in attack – on the rare occasions we had the ball, there was no sign of any invention.

There was reason to be optimistic perhaps, and of course we did go 3-6up just after half-time. But then it all happened. We’ve already seen this season, most starkly at Northampton, what happens when you defend for 70 minutes against a good team and offer nothing creative. They stay patient, keep plugging away, then they eventually score and the game is lost.

If we balance Bath’s possession against our good defence, I’d say one more try for Bath and it would have been a fair result.

What to do? One thing might be to realise that we have a fly-half who is liable to do something stupid and give away a try, but who can also create tries. We are conceding already – one more won’t hurt and since we don’t really have an ultra-reliable goal kicker, tries are surely what we must be going for.

I noticed an interesting thing during the first half. After half an hour perhaps, Andy Saull’s shirt was brown. Standing behind the goal relatively close to the pitch, I got a decent view of the work he does, a lot of stealing and disruption. Definitely our man of the match for me.

Oh yes, sorry – the interesting thing. So Saull’s shirt was brown, and I looked around to see who also had a dirty shirt. None of the other forwards stood out, but Noah Cato and Phil Godman looked like they had been putting themselves about.

Godman didn’t have a great game yesterday but he had little to work with really and with how dominated we were as a team, any defensive fly-half would have had difficulties.

Apart from Saull, I can’t remember any player really standing out for the Falcons and with a scoreline of 24-6 perhaps that not surprising.

After the game it was great to spend some time with other members of the Falcons family and meet new people. Rugby is never just about the 80 minutes and that’s a very good thing – if it were, most of us would have given up a few years ago.

Right, off for a walk along the Avon now to clear the head. Running wasn’t really an option this morning!

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

Match preview: Bath Rugby v Newcastle Falcons

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Saturday 8 February 2014 – 3.00pm

The Recreation Ground, Bath

Aviva Premiership #13

I’m not sure all of our last four cup games could be considered ‘fun’, but the last one against Newport at KP a week ago was and that should put us in a good frame of mind to go into an incredibly hard run of Premiership games.

The first is away to Bath tomorrow, at one of the most picturesque sporting arenas I’ve ever been to, although since Jonny Wilkinson kicked a World Cup-winning drop-goal we have only beaten the Bathplugs twice. I remember the more recent of those successes very well – it was October 2009 and I watched it from the media box above the old main stand at the Rec, jumping up and down and shouting as Micky Young steamed from his own half to score one of our four tries.

Young is one of several former Falcons in the Bath squad, now led by our former defence coach Mike Ford after the south-westerners inexplicably dispensed with the services of Gary Gold earlier this season.

Others formerly of the KP parish are England international prop David Wilson, who went to the 2011 World Cup but who has not made the current Six Nations squad, and hooker Ross Batty, who made a couple of replacement appearances for us between 2006 and 2008 before leaving for Rotherham. Tom Biggs joined back in 2010 after just one season in black that was characterised by frustration among Falcons fans that the Saxons winger’s undoubted try-scoring abilities were not utilised to nearly full effect by Steve Bates’ side. At Bath, Biggs has been a big success but will shortly join Hull FC for the new Super League season.

The other former Falcon at the Rec is Peter Stringer, the legendary Irish scrum-half who needs no introduction to any rugby fan. Interestingly though, Stringer appears to have been at fault for a couple of tries scored against Bath recently.

The most controversial character in Ford’s squad is Gavin Henson, who joined last summer. While his talent is not in question, it remains to be seen whether Bath will be the club with which Henson finally gets his rugby career back on track and perhaps forces his way back into the Wales team. One imagines he is a long way behind Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies at the moment though.

On the England side, Bath will be without Dave Attwood tomorrow as he will be at Murrayfield, on the bench for the national side after coming on in the second half in Paris last week. Anthony Watson, Kyle Eastmond and George Ford have all been released by Stuart Lancaster though, and that may not be to our advantage.

Bath had a good first month in the Premiership season after beating the Falcons 0-21 at Kingston Park in the first match of the new season. Two second-half tries by prop Anthony Perenise sealed the away side’s win after George Ford had already kicked Bath into the lead, on a disappointing night for our team.

After that came home wins over Leicester and London Irish, around a defeat to Saracens. Gloucester, Exeter and Harlequins have also lost at the Rec in the league this season – indeed, no English side has won in BA2 since Saracens just before Christmas 2012.

Eight wins, a draw (at Leicester in an epic game early last month) and just three defeats from twelve matches have put Bath third in the table, at the head of a four-way battle for the final two play-off places. Harlequins and Leicester on 32 points apiece and Wasps on 31 stand ready to pounce if Bath slip up. However, with Saracens and Northampton having 50 and 47 points respectively, it looks like the home spots are wrapped up already.

In the cups, Bath are through in both competitions and will host Exeter in the LV= semis next month, before meeting Brive at the Rec at the start of April.

As I said, the last time the Falcons defeated Bath was in October 2009. As well as being on the radio, the other thing I remember about that day was that I made lasagne when I got home. Bizarre. We were 8-7 down at half-time, but recovered to get a glorious 16-27 victory. As well as Micky Young, James Hudson and Charlie Amesbury (two) scored tries, while Matt Carraro and Michael Claassens crossed for the Blue, Black and Whites, who brought Michael Stephenson on in the second half as well as Wilson and another former Falcon David Barnes.

Other than that, our only other successes at the Rec were in August 1997, our first ever Premiership game when debutant Stuart Legg sealed the win and set us on the way to the championship, and in September 2004, when the altogether more memorable Matthew Burke made his Geordie bow. That, like 2009, was a bonus-point victory. Tom May (two), Mike McCarthy and Stephenson were the scorers, while Phil Dowson was shown a red card later on.

Falcons in Bath:

13/11/1993 Division 1                   L3-46

23/08/1997 Premiership 1           W20-13

16/01/1999 Premiership 1           L11-16

13/11/1999 Premiership 1           L12-45

16/09/2000 Premiership               L12-19

28/04/2001 Championship QF     L9-18

25/11/2001 Premiership               L9-24

10/05/2003 Premiership               L12-24

20/12/2003 Premiership               L10-20

11/09/2004 Premiership               W33-18

11/03/2006 Premiership               L18-20

25/11/2006 Premiership               L14-20

08/03/2008 Premiership               L11-22

21/03/2009 Premiership               L25-36

24/10/2009 Premiership               W27-16

29/01/2011 Cup                             L6-11

07/05/2011 Premiership               L12-42

11/02/2012 Premiership               L24-30

 

The Falcons have been dealt a big blow by the news that Dom Barrow has gotten injured again, hopefully his dislocated ankle won’t keep him out for too long. Mike Blair is also still absent. Jamie Helleur gets a start alongside Gonzalo Tiesi in the midfield, and Warren Fury and Phil Godman keep their half-back partnership going. Kieran Brookes and Ally Hogg are back from A internationals on the bench.

Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Scott MacLeod, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 6 Will Welch (c), 7 Andy Saull, 8 Mark Wilson.

Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Franck Montanella, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Ally Hogg, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Adam Powell.

 

Bath team: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Peter Stringer, 1 Nathan Catt, 2 Rob Webber, 3 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 5 Dominic Day, 6 Matt Garvey, 7 Francois Louw, 8 Carl Fearns.

Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Anthony Perenise, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Alafoti Fa’osiliva, 20 Leroy Houston, 21 Micky Young, 22 Gavin Henson, 23 Horacio Agulla.

 

Barrow said in the paper this week that we have nothing to lose tomorrow and in the coming league games, and that’s true, we are expected to take some beatings and if we don’t then the teams that fail to hand them out will be disappointed. But our side contains some good players and, with the pressure off, hopefully we can play with some freedom and if the defence holds firm, who knows what might happen?

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

Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 29-0 Newport Gwent Dragons

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Friday 31 January 2014 – 7.45pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

LV= Cup Pools 1 and 4 #4

Great! For the most part, that was much better. A bit of zip and desire, looking to keep the ball rather than wasting possession, and what happens? A bonus point and a clean sheet.

The first half was probably one of the best shows I’ve seen from the Falcons this season. We pinned Newport back and constantly asked questions of the Welsh defence, scoring a couple of very good tries. Phil Godman’s was especially good, showing a good turn of pace. Godman had quite a good game I thought and looked like he was linking a lot better with Adam Powell.

The second forty were a little more low-key, we got plenty of defensive practice too (not that we really needed that!) but didn’t concede a single point. Part of the reason for that is I guess that the Dragons kept going for a try when they had us under the cosh and Matt Thompson was in the bin, but we still had to hold firm and did so.

Incidentally, it took about twelve minutes on his first game in three months for Thompson to get some abuse in the South Stand after dropping a pass.

As well as Godman, Mark Wilson had another superb game and took both of his tries well. Some people talk about needing a big ball carrier in the back row but Wilson makes a lot of metres already so I don’t think the need is that desperate.

Sinoti Sinoti looks like a lively winger, always looking for the ball and willing to run at players. I don’t think we’ll see too many kicks from him. Gonzalo Tiesi was solid, maybe didn’t get too much opportunity in attack but put in a decent shift on his debut. If I had to pick one player who was perhaps a little below par, I thought Alex Tait didn’t seem to be on the same wavelength as the rest of the team in attack, defended well but he did waste a bit of possession.

Dom Barrow was imperious on his return from injury. This guy isn’t just powerful, he’s quite intelligent too. More than once he was able to change his position in a tackle to make extra metres or offload. If we can keep him fit and, crucially, keep a hold of him, Barrow could well be a big player in our future.

Although the attendance was quite low last night, unfortunately, I did quite like being able to go to the bar at half-time and get served straight away. Among those at KP, there seemed to be a far more positive atmosphere. Hopefully this will be the kick we need to start playing rugby in the most productive way and start pulling away from the drop-zone.

Bath and Harlequins away will be very difficult, but in the end it’s only fifteen versus fifteen so hopefully we’ll be competitive and who knows what might happen?

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