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.
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