Match preview: Gloucester Rugby v Newcastle Falcons

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Saturday 22 March 2014 – 3.00pm

Kingsholm, Gloucester

Aviva Premiership #17

After the distractions of the Six Nations and a controversial fans’ forum this week, it’s back to the important stuff tomorrow and a trip to Gloucester in the Premiership. I don’t think anybody can think about this game and not recall that unforgettable afternoon at Kingsholm 23 months ago when the Falcons won in front of the Shed for the first time in 14 years.

I can still see Mark Wilson’s try now, taking the ball at the back of a lineout and running in to score when the other 29 players on the pitch were stood still, but the referee was playing on. Then the Shed rapidly emptying to the roars of Geordie voices.

The beer flowed in Teague’s and the Kingsholm afterwards – the offy had almost run out of Brown Ale but I managed to nab the last bottle. On the train, I got chatting to a man about rugby and we then speculated about the origin of jeans. A girl who clearly wanted us to shut up, changed her tune when I explained to her how to get to Westcombe Park quickly back in London, so she wouldn’t be too late for a party.

This is the great thing about watching the Falcons – the bad days are worth it to experience times like that glorious win at Kingsholm, and on away trips there are always interesting stories to tell. I find them interesting anyway.

I write that as I look at the desktop background on my computer, which is a photo of myself and the missus outside the Cross Keys clubhouse last year.

I wonder what joys tomorrow will throw up?

We are really approaching do-or-die time in the Premiership this season, kind-of for us, but especially for Worcester. The gap at the bottom of the table is eleven points with six games to go. The Warriors visit KP a week on Sunday for this year’s Big One, and if they beat Wasps at Sixways tonight and we get nothing at Kingsholm tomorrow, things could get just a touch jittery.

Worcester don’t actually have a terrible record against the High Wycombe side, winning six of their seventeen Premiership encounters to Wasps’ nine. However, it is over a year since Dean Ryan’s team won in the league, and I just can’t see them suddenly turning it on and getting twelve more points than we do in the final six games of the season.

It would be nice if we could put things beyond doubt ourselves though, starting tomorrow. Nigel Davies’ team, which boasts former Falcons Rupert Harden and James Hudson, will be disappointed with their season so far. They sit in ninth place in the league on 27 points, one ahead of London Irish but seven behind Exeter, meaning they face a struggle to avoid finishing in the bottom third of the table.

Usually such a formidable side in front of their own raucous supporters, the Cherry and Whites only have three home wins in the Premiership this season, and the first of them was in highly-controversial fashion over Northampton in September when a last-minute penalty gave them a 26-24 win. Worcester were then downed in front of the Shed just before Christmas, and Harlequins lost 25-20 at Kingsholm a month ago. Interestingly, all three of those losing teams got bonus points, which should give the Falcons hope for tomorrow.

Other than those, Gloucester’s only other league wins in 2013/14 have been at Kingston Park in September of course, and London Irish in December. Even in the Heineken Cup, Munster and Edinburgh left Kingsholm with most points.

Newcastle have of course already visited GL1 this season. Mike Tindall and Rob Cook were the try-scorers in a 20-3 win for Gloucester in the LV= Cup back in November, following a disappointing performance for the Falcons. Even more unhappily, Shed legend James Simpson-Daniel suffered a serious leg injury during that match, one that some thought could be career-threatening, but a new contract fortunately suggests the Teessider is on the mend.

Although April 2012 was our first win at Gloucester since 1998, there have been some close calls, none closer than a cup visit in October 2007 when a last-gasp try gave the home side an 18-18 draw. In April 2003, bottom-of-the-league Newcastle went 0-20 up against the table-topping and cup-winning hosts before a heart-breaking try by Thinus Delport and Ludovic Mercier’s conversion defeated us.

In February 2008, 21-20 down going into the final seconds, Tom May attempted a long-range drop-goal but the kick was unsuccessful and Gloucester broke to deny us even a bonus point. So while Kingsholm has not been the happiest hunting ground for us in the past, there is certainly cause for hope. Compared to some away grounds, we certainly haven’t taken too many hammerings there over the years.

 

Falcons at Gloucester:

25/02/1978  Cup 2nd round  L10-19

15/01/1994  Division 1  L9-15

11/04/1998  Premiership 1  W29-27

17/10/1998  Premiership 1  L32-41

11/09/1999  Premiership 1  L16-31

23/12/2000  Premiership  L13-28

29/12/2001  Premiership  L25-29

18/05/2002  Championship QF  L9-60

12/04/2003  Premiership  L23-25

07/02/2004  Premiership  L12-36

25/09/2004  Premiership  L17-31

08/05/2005  Wildcard SF  L16-23

05/11/2005  Premiership  L20-27

24/03/2007  Premiership  L18-24

27/10/2007  Cup   D18-18

23/02/2008  Premiership  L20-28

01/10/2008  Premiership  L23-39

05/12/2009  Premiership  L13-25

02/04/2011  Premiership  L9-34

14/04/2012  Premiership  W29-20

16/11/2013  Cup   L3-20

 

Zach Kibirige is unleashed for his Premiership debut tomorrow, replacing Lee Smith on the left wing. Chris York also gets a rare league start in Mark Wilson’s absence.

Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Danny Barnes, 11 Zach Kibirige, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Scott MacLeod, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 6 Will Welch (c), 7 Andy Saull, 8 Chris York.

Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Lee Smith

 

James Hudson plays against the Falcons for the first time since leaving in the summer, in a Gloucester side captained by Mike Tindall and featuring a quite talented replacements’ bench:

Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Mike Tindall (c), 11 Martyn Thomas, 10 Ryan Mills, 9 Dan Robson, 1 Nick Wood, 2 Darren Dawidiuk, 3 Shaun Knight, 4 Elliott Stooke, 5 James Hudson, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Matt Kvesic, 8 Gareth Evans.

Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Will James, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Jimmy Cowan, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Jonny May.

 

It seems ages since our last game – three weeks is a long time in the middle of the season. Hopefully the break has been well-used and after Wasps do a number on Worcester tonight, we can begin to pull away with another Kingsholm miracle tomorrow.

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

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