Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 15-21 Edinburgh Rugby

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Friday 29 August 2014 – 7.45pm

Mansfield Park, Hawick

Friendly

 

I quite enjoyed the drive up to Hawick last night, the M6 was a bit crazy but the A7 really is a lovely and peaceful road. Driving back was a bit hairier than I remember last year – for some reason I felt quite sleepy so tried to get forty winks at a layby not far from Langholm, but couldn’t, so fuelled up with some chocolate and Coke to get through the last seventy miles.

 

I felt fortunate to be able to lock the car. A dark, remote winding road between England and Scotland was probably rich pickings for bandits in past centuries.

 

Aye, we can go back to Hawick next year, nice little ground with a neat little bar, and a nice scholarly-looking picture of Scott MacLeod with his Scotland cap on the wall.

 

On the pitch, the Falcons put together a more sustained performance than against Rotherham, with plenty of aggression and Juan Pablo Socino showing a lot of creativity at fly-half, suggesting that he might be the one to lead the promised new expansive game from the number ten shirt.

 

Simon Hammersley again showed solidity in defence and pace and guile in attack and will surely make his Premiership debut at Welford Road next Saturday. He might be joined by some Tuilagis in the backline, both Alex and Andy looking in decent shape to get at least part of the game next week. The centres are a bit problematic if Socino wears ten, but Jamie Helleur did his chances of a start no harm with a combative second half last night.

 

In the forwards, Calum Green again carried well and made some big tackles. I quite like this guy. Hopefully whatever problem led to Dom Barrow being taken off in the first half will not keep him out of the opening league game, and was just a precaution. In the back row, I’d be tempted to go for the balance of speed and power by picking Mark Wilson, Andy Saull and Ally Hogg. Despite Will Welch being in the lineup, Hogg led from the front last night, a controller at the base of the scrum and making good metres in the loose.

 

As well as the back row, one area of the forwards where Dean Richards might have a selection problem is at hooker, where George McGuigan shows no signs of stopping his development into a top player, performing excellently last night, but where we also have current Scottish international Scott Lawson and new signing Rob Hawkins available, not to mention Matt Thompson. I’d be tempted to throw McGuigan in from the start next week – his performance in the loose last night reminded me a bit of Schalk Brits and that’s quite a compliment.

 

I suppose the key problem again last night was that we didn’t take our opportunities when we were on top for much of the second half, and allowed Edinburgh to creep further ahead with penalties. Discipline is going to have to improve in the Premiership, and we also need to keep scoring tries if we are not going to be able to rely on Phil Godman’s boot – despite another lively showing, he missed a relatively simple conversion last night.

 

Overall, there were probably more positives than negatives in Hawick. It’s just a shame we couldn’t secure what would have been a big morale-boosting win, but keep plugging away and playing an attacking game, and the wins will come.

 

 

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

Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 21-22 Rotherham Titans

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Saturday 23 August 2014, 3.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Friendly

 

Well I don’t think anybody expected that result on the debut of our new plastic pitch. A simple conclusion from today’s home defeat to Rotherham would be that there was some good stuff, some not so good stuff, and lots to work on. Pretty much a normal outcome from a pre-season friendly.

 

Firstly, the good: the lineout functioned quite well, the scrum too for the most part but not always. Most of the team looked quite fit. Juan Pablo Socino fitted in well into the midfield, Sinoti Sinoti and Scott Lawson looked as sharp and eager as ever, and Calum Green showed some good carrying and tackling. Simon Hammersley is likely to get more first team games if he continues to show the same solidity at the back and pace going forward.

 

Phil Godman – I was a big critic of his last season, but today I thought he looked incisive and quick, rather than ponderous and flat as for much of 2013/14.

 

Not so good: poor discipline for periods, culminating in a yellow card for Green. Two Rotherham tries coming from our defence being stretched – something that didn’t look likely to happen at the other end. Handling errors, a plastic pitch won’t make the ball any easier to handle in the wet. An inability to break down a Championship defence for long periods, and struggling for possession at times.

 

So lots to work on I think, I’d say penalties being the most worrying. In a league game against a better team that didn’t also offend frequently, we might have been kicked out of sight today.

 

But despite some seemingly pointless kicks as we’ve come to expect but hoped to avoid this season, I think the team showed some good attacking intent, certainly more than during the depths of last winter, and with a decent pitch we might see more of that throughout the coming season. Things will come together if the team just keep plugging away at what is certainly the right way to play.

 

Final thought for today – it may not have been a fantastic game or a positive result, but it was good to be back at KP!

 

 

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

Premiership 7s finals reaction

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Friday 8 August 2014

Twickenham Stoop, London

Premiership 7s Finals

 

It was a very disappointing night for the Falcons on Friday, losing to Newport in the quarter-finals of the main Premiership 7s, and then to London Irish in the plate semi-finals. Neither was a big beating, being by two and seven points respectively, but we didn’t play very well and deserved to lose them both.
There didn’t seem to be any real spark about the team, and massive drive or energy. Plenty of graft of course, but nothing special.

 

Tom Catterick played quite well again, being involved in most of what the Falcons did. Dan Temm and Ben Morris made some big tackles, and Temm carried well. Chris Harris made some quite good runs.

 

The team were a bit disjointed though. Perhaps we were just playing better opposition than at Darlington, where we were never really challenged that seriously. Perhaps we missed a bit more experience alongside Catterick, and the pace of someone like Simon Hammersley who did so well last week.

 

It’s a shame we have now had two pretty poor Premiership Sevens finals in a row, having for many years challenged for Middlesex and Premiership sevens titles, but it’s not that important in the grand scheme of everything.

 

Far more important things to come from September.

 

 

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

Premiership 7s group reaction

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Saturday 2 August 2014

Northern Echo Arena, Darlington

Premiership 7s Group D

 

Despite a tricky opening game against Leicester, in the end the Falcons were not massively troubled on the way to keeping up a perfect record of twelve wins from twelve games in Premiership 7s groups. Our young side now move on to the finals at the Twickenham Stoop on Friday night.

 

The late switch of venue from Kingston Park to the Northern Echo Arena in Darlington did not prevent a big crowd from turning out on a wet night in the North East, indeed three coachloads headed down the A1 to join the rest of the 7,000 in attendance. There was a fun atmosphere and some exciting rugby on show.

 

Tom Catterick was named player of the evening, and he certainly led from the front, however for me the Falcons’ stars were the speedy Simon Hammersley, who will surely get more cup outings at full-back this season, and Dan Temm, whose back row skills were evident in many ruck scavengings.

 

The Falcons just about made it past Leicester in the opening game 26-21, rescued by two second-half scores by captain Catterick. London Welsh beat Sale but were then downed by the Tigers.

 

In our second game, Sale were put to the sword with relative ease, Simon Hammersley and Ben Morris among the scorers to particularly impress in a 27-7 win that was only not a nilling because of a late Sharks consolation.

 

After Leicester beat Sale to ensure a whitewash for the Mancs, the Falcons held out London Welsh’s early attacks and tries from Chris Harris and Catterick ensured the evening’s plate would stay in the North East. In four group stages in this competition the Falcons are yet to lose a single game.

 

It doesn’t really matter of course, and will have no bearing on the Premiership season to come, but winning is always nice and the players involved last night will have had a confidence boost as well as, for most of them as youngsters, benefitting from the experience of playing in front of a big crowd.

 

My impression of the Northern Echo Arena was that a fair bit of it did not appear to have been brilliantly maintained since its opening eleven years ago, although that is perhaps not surprising given the former Darlington FC’s financial struggles. The concourse was not as attractive as many I’ve seen, but it wasn’t really a major problem and if Mowden Park continue to improve then perhaps they can sort everything out. The ‘clubhouse’ bar in the outside of the stadium looked quite nice, though I didn’t get a chance to try it out.

 

The other finalists for Friday are Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Gloucester, London Irish, Northampton and final hosts Harlequins. The teams will be split into two groups of four, each playing three games and the two group winners advancing to the final. Due to the expanded format, the first game will begin at 6pm, so if you’re going and don’t want to miss any of the action, plan accordingly!

 

Looking forward to it.

 

 

P.S. I’ve decided to be loyal to my adopted Cumbrian country by noting all of the Eddie Stobart lorries I see on rugby trips this season. We didn’t see a single one coming back today, though some of that may have been because for at least twenty minutes, the M6 was deluged with rain and I could see about fifty metres ahead, and not enough of the wing mirror to make overtaking even approaching safe. Lots of fun. Saw a few Stobarts yesterday though.

 

This weekend’s Eddie Stobarts:

Ruby Emma

Jodie Marie

Courtney Liana (the favourite so far)

Lucy Eleanor

Catherine Florence

 

 

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

It’s that time of the year again

7s

The season sure has crept up on us, on me anyway. I really don’t know where the summer has gone – it got lost somewhere in a haze of wedding planning and job searching, and one very drunken weekend in the Lakes where I nearly lost my right foot to a quad bike. Hence I haven’t posted much over the summer.

 

No time to worry about that now though, as tomorrow night the Falcons get their public pre-season underway at the stadium formerly known as the Reynolds Arena in Darlington. It’s time for the Premiership 7s, a tournament we have a decent record in having won it in 2011 and been runners-up the previous year.

 

This time our group opponents are Sale, Leicester and a team that will represent London Welsh. The Falcons, managed by Mark Laycock, have named a young squad that contains only two recognised first-teamers in Lee Smith and captain Tom Catterick. Other notable names include Brian Tuilagi, who has signed up to our academy and is from the same dynasty as our new signings Alex and Andy.

 

Sean Brown and Simon Hammersley will both be looking to push their claim for first team opportunities this season after both getting cup run-outs in 2013/14, while Ruki Tipuna’s injury may give Andy Davies a view to a bench spot come the start of the season.

 

I’ve been to the Northern Echo Arena before, back in 2003 when George Reynolds FC played Kidderminster in the stadium’s first competitive game. It was a nice ground, but reminded me a lot of the Madejski Stadium, just with different coloured seats. It’ll be interesting to see tomorrow night what, if anything, has changed, and what it’s like as a rugby ground.

 

Above all, it’ll be great to see some live rugby again after a couple of months off. Nine months of hope, despair, ecstacy, tension and terror begin here!

 

 

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