Match reaction: Wasps 35-18 Newcastle Falcons

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Sunday 28 September 2014 – 2.00pm

Adams Park, High Wycombe

Aviva Premiership #4

 

Twenty defeats in a row is a nice round number and a psychological barrier, we can only hope that this is where it stops. The next two games are Exeter at home and London Welsh away, the first one is winnable and the second is an absolute must-win. Lose them both, and it may be time for more dramatic changes than just a new gameplan.

 

I didn’t even get to listen to the commentary of the game at Wasps today. Sat in the car waiting for the ferry from Mull back to the mainland, I heard on a crackly Radio 5 Live that we were 17-11 down but “not playing like a team that has lost nineteen games in a row”, or words to that effect. Good stuff, and something to build on in the second half.

 

Finally getting to tonight’s hotel and getting the Wifi working (in the Highlands, you often get strong mobile signal but literally no mobile internet), it was disappointing to see on Twitter that Wasps had pulled away and won 35-18. Not even a losing bonus point, which we probably should have been targeting at least today.

 

There have been conflicting reports on how we played, some fans saying that there were further encouraging signs attack-wise, others saying we have developed into a one-trick team, crashing all the time and then going sideways, giving opponents little to think about. Juan Pablo Socino was described by one fan as clearly a centre playing at fly-half. Maybe that is an experiment worth persevering with, maybe not, I haven’t seen the game so don’t know.

 

Ruki Tipuna apparently had a good game, and I certainly wouldn’t mind him getting a run in the team on his performances so far. The loosehead situation is turning into a real worry, if Alex Rogers and Mark Irving are good enough then make them proper Falcons players, if not then get someone in who is or leave out Gonzalo Tiesi (Jamie Helleur is playing well in the reserves by all accounts) in favour of Eric Fry.

 

Things could be worse, London Welsh have conceded more than forty points in every game so far and over fifty in two of those, while we are conceding around thirty-odd on average I’d guess. If both teams continue as they are, we shouldn’t be relegated, but relying on another team being even worse than us again is not good enough.

 

The table makes bad reading – four games in and we are eleventh, already six points behind Sale in tenth. A win against Exeter is vital, victory over London Welsh absolutely non-negotiable you might think. I’m still backing Dean Richards, and hopefully we won’t get to a stage where you have to think things just aren’t working. The next two weeks will go a long way towards any judgement.

 

 

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

Isle of Mull 41-22 Cumnock

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Saturday 27 September 2014 – 2.00pm

Garmony, Mull

BT West Division 3

 

I can’t believe I never looked into whether the Isle of Mull had a rugby club, and that the Falcons fan who helped sort out our accommodation over here never mentioned it!

 

So wor lass and I were in a shop in Tobermory, right in the north of Mull, yesterday and saw some Isle of Mull Rugby apparel, shirts, coats etc. Through the dodgy internet signal I found out that the ground was near the ferry stop at Craignure, so easy to get to, and more importantly, that there was a home game today in West Division 3.

 

Mull’s game against Cumnock was supposed to kick off at 3pm according to the internet, so after dropping Mrs Leipy off at a spa just north of Craignure, I drove along one of the island’s few two-lane roads to the Garmony ground.

 

Arriving at 2.20pm, I found a game in progress. One team was clearly Mull (the island shape behind the players’ numbers giving that away), but the identity of the opposition was less clear. I soon became aware that this was the match I had come to see… ferry times probably dictated an early start.

 

Missing the start, it was a bit difficult to get into the game initially as I stood watching from the clubhouse balcony. The teams seemed evenly matched, as might be expected as they had both won one and lost one of their opening two games of the season and being separated only by one point on points difference (-13 for Cumnock and -14 for Mull) in the middle of the ten-team league. Both teams looked to attack with the ball in hand and kicked only as a last resort, making for a bit of entertainment.

2

 

Just before half-time, Mull’s left winger chased a chip to the corner and looked to have knocked on in diving for possession, but with Cumnock kicking out, the referee gave the hosts a lineout. The throw was taken quickly and Mull scored an unconverted try, which I found out made the score 17-5 to the islanders at the break.

 

At this point, believe it or not, I went in search of a pint. With nobody in the bar (apart from a woman with a table of sandwiches and cakes for the children playing in a tournament on the back pitch), I asked at the burger kiosk and another lady took me to the bar. She handed me a can of Carling and asked if I wanted a glass (a glass glass) – a bit different to the Premiership!

 

So the second half kicked off, the wind breezing over from the Sound of Mull in the background to this picturesque pitch. With just a minute gone, Cumnock won a penalty in a central position just in the 22 for a home tackler not releasing, and one of the visitors’ big centres sent the ball through the posts.

 

Mull seemed to be losing their discipline now as the mainland side turned the screw. Another penalty was sent to the left corner and from the lineout, one of Cumnock’s big, fierce second-rowers stormed over for a converted score, reducing Mull’s lead to just two points.

 

However, the home side managed to get themselves together and won a penalty in the right corner just in front of Cumnock’s tryline, the visitors feeling hot pressure from the island forwards.

3

The ball was driven forward again and then flung left, where Mull found no defenders on the left of the posts and scored. The conversion into the wind made the score 24-15 just short of the hour mark.

 

Mull were now in the ascendancy, and despite being sent backwards in a scrum on the left, they managed to spin the ball right and an attacker fought over for the hosts’ third try, which was again converted.

 

Cumnock broke and a fifty-metre run ended with a tackle on the left, and then a knock-on by the East Ayrshire team’s right winger on the other side of the pitch.

 

With eight minutes to go, a big scrum by Mull in the middle of Cumnock’s half confused the away defence as the home side’s veteran number eight picked off and moved to the right. He fed his right winger who made for the corner, and just before he ran out of pitch a looped pass inside allowed Mull’s blindside flanker to secure a bonus point for the islanders. Two minutes later, Mull scored their fifth and final try on the far left from an unstoppable steaming run down the wing.

4

 

The tries were coming thick and fast. Mull hesitated over the restart and Cumnock were able to gather, a different lock this time driving for the line and scoring behind the posts.

 

It was to be the final score of this entertaining match however, which Mull won 41-22 – thanks again to the referee for confirming the final score for me! I was interested to notice after the game that after the players had cheered their opponents, both teams chanted during the guards of honour. Maybe that’s a tradition up in this part of Scotland.

 

It got a bit better after the game. I headed back to the spa where I’d left the good lady, and found her drinking a cup of tea in the bar. What should I see in the fridge behind the bar? Yes, you guessed it:

newcastle

 

Time was I would probably stop and watch a football game if I passed a field where one was being played, but not a rugby match. However, after a few visits to Kendal last season and Carlisle and now Mull this month, I’m really starting to like these ‘non-league Saturdays’. Viva rugby!

5 after game

 

 

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

Match preview: Wasps v Newcastle Falcons

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Sunday 28 September 2014 – 2.00pm

Adams Park, High Wycombe

Aviva Premiership #4

 

Like most people I imagine, I have always referred to Wasps as ‘Wasps’, even since they adopted the ‘London’ tag in 1999. However, to see it written above as just ‘Wasps’ seems strange now.

 

The Falcons make a quick return to High Wycombe this Sunday looking to avoid the psychological milestone of twenty consecutive Premiership defeats, having hit fifteen in that run at Adams Park back in May. Travelling Geordies saw an entertaining game that day and returned home contemplating not one but two bonus points.

 

It was topsy-turvy with Joel Hodgson converting all five (yes five – scored by Noah Cato (two), Mike Blair, George McGuigan and Hodgson himself) Newcastle tries, but ultimately Wasps (there I did it again) won out 44-38.

 

Flamboyantly-haired flanker Ashley Johnson was among the home side’s try-scorers, following on from his leading the Falcons a merry dance at KP last Christmas. Johnson also scored in Wasps’ last home game, a 20-16 defeat of champions Northampton. Former England winger Tom Varndell also crossed the white line and Andy Goode and Ruaridh Jackson’s boots completed the upset.

 

Scottish international Jackson is one player we won’t have to worry about on Sunday, as sadly for the fly-half, his club and Scotland, he will be out with ACL injury for a fair few months.

 

Sunday could be one of our last visits to the High Wycombe industrial estates that contains Adams Park (although for the second season in a row I won’t be there) as Wasps are reported to be looking at moving up to Coventry, where the Ricoh Arena could be their new home. If the Falcons were to get a first league win for eleven months, it would be only a third win at Wasps’ current ground.

 

Our first win at Adams Park came in early January 2010, when Steve Bates’ side reversed the equivalent game’s scoreline the previous season and won 6-12. Dave Walder – now of our parish again of course – and Mark van Gisbergen scored penalties for Wasps, but Jimmy Gopperth’s four kicks gave us victory in a game that really announced Jonny Golding to the wider rugby world as he put in a one-hour man of the match performance.

 

There were a few contenders for the next ‘Falcons that time forgot’ in our team for that win – Rob Vickerman, Charlie Amesbury, Josh Afu, Filipo Levi, and the indomitable Gcobani ‘We’re on the pitch’ Bobo.

 

The aforementioned game in April 2009 is one that will live long in the memory of many who were there for one moment. Danny Cipriani missed a penalty, but taking the Falcons’ drop-out in his own half, Wasps’ fly-half just dropped the ball and nonchalantly booted it back through the posts. Whatever your opinion of Cipriani, you just had to applaud that.

 

Falcons away to Wasps:

31/03/1979             Sunbury                     Club Match                W24-6

30/01/1982             Sunbury                     Club Match                W23-12

29/01/1983             Sunbury                     Club Match                D6-6

30/03/1985             Sunbury                     Club Match                L0-32

29/11/1986             Sudbury                     Club Match                L13-22

07/04/1990             Sunbury                     Club Match                L0-38

28/09/1991             Sudbury                     Club Match                L6-23

25/09/1993             Sunbury                     Division 1                   L21-38

16/12/1995             Sunbury                     Club Match                L5-13

22/04/1998             Loftus Road                Premiership 1           L17-18

18/04/1999             Loftus Road                Premiership 1           L33-34

30/10/1999             Loftus Road                Premiership 1           D19-19

30/01/2000             Loftus Road                Cup R5                       L30-36

28/03/2001             Loftus Road                Premiership               L7-44

11/11/2001             Loftus Road                Premiership               W33-30

01/03/2003             Adams Park               Premiership               L12-13

02/11/2003             Adams Park               Premiership               L26-30

10/10/2004             Adams Park               Premiership               L29-43

08/01/2006             Adams Park               Premiership               L6-21

15/10/2006             Adams Park               Premiership               L15-35

25/11/2007             Adams Park               Premiership               L12-35

01/12/2007             Adams Park               Cup                             L6-24

05/04/2009             Adams Park               Premiership               L6-12

03/01/2010             Adams Park               Premiership               W12-6

02/01/2011             Adams Park               Premiership               L16-33

05/05/2012             Adams Park               Premiership               W14-10

03/05/2014             Adams Park               Premiership               L38-44

 

5 May 2012 – that day will also live long in the memory of every Falcons fan who was among the 500 of us who outsang almost 10,000 home supporters and comprehensively won the battle on the terraces, even if tries from James Fitzpatrick and Peter Stringer were not enough to overhaul Wasps at the bottom of the table.

 

“Que sera sera, whatever will be will be, we’re going to Jersey!” We went. “To be relegated would be a great adventure.” It was.

 

 

Just a preview of past games today from info on my hard disk as we’re on the Isle of Mull, with not much internet connection and even less time to upload this. Hopefully I might find somewhere to get commentary on Sunday, otherwise, back on the mainland I’ll be digging out a curry house with Wifi to find out the score.

 

Happy weekend everyone!

 

 

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

Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 10-35 Northampton Saints

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Sunday 21 September 2014 – 2.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #3

 

Although we all know that Homer is the wisest of all Simpsons, Marge has her moments too. “Part of spending time together, is spending time apart”. So while Mrs Leipy went off to look at some of Edinburgh’s quirkier shops this afternoon, I came across the Royal Mile’s oldest pub and made use of their WiFi to watch the Falcons-Northampton game over a pint of West (4% and not a bad pint at all).

 

The Falcons had a disappointing early few minutes, kicking straight to Ben Foden and allowing him to counter attack at pace, our defence were stretched and Will Hooley scored. The yellow card for Ally Hogg was harsh I thought as the player tackled was not going to get the ball, and a really worrying moment. The head really went into the hands when Luther Burrell intercepted a pass and raced upfield but fortunately Phil Godman made a fantastic tackle to prevent a certain try.

 

Alex Waller’s try was an absolute heart-sinker – 0-18 down after fifteen minutes and the champions aren’t going to let that kind of lead slip. JP Socino’s penalty at least got us on the scoreboard, just settle things down and see what happens from there.

 

What happened was that we gifted three points back to the Saints with Kieran Brookes dropping to his knee in a scrum, and then a quick penalty went awry and Ken Pisi was given an easy try. 3-28 with less than half an hour gone.

 

Just when I thought things had settled down as we had a couple of scrums, Mike Blair sent yet another kick straight to a Northampton back. Contrast this to Northampton’s kicks that went into space or for touch… and which team benefitted most from their kicks? Still, we’ve been doing this for ten years so it’s not going to change any time soon.

 

The BT Sport commentators had a discussion about this, one asking whether you should sacrifice ten to fifteen metres on a kick to find touch. My first thought was that since we were allowing Northampton to run back at us, by the time we managed to slow them down they’d made twenty or thirty metres, so the answer should have been obvious.

 

Anyway, we stemmed the tide in the last ten minutes of the first period and had a little spell in the Northampton 22 at the end of the half, but just couldn’t find a way through a very strong away defence. 3-28 at half-time, my thoughts were that we were always going to find today difficult against the champions, but we had gifted a few points away.

 

The second half began a bit better, especially once Mark Wilson and Gonzalo Tiesi came on to add some pace and intensity into the attack, and both probed as we put pressure on. It was interesting to hear that after 55 minutes we’d had two thirds of possession in the whole match, but still no tries and 3-28 down… difference in quality I suppose.

 

I guess Northampton lost a bit of moment at half-time and that’s understandable. The game was won and they must have been thinking about injuries, especially with an imminent meeting with Bath who handed Leicester a record Premiership defeat yesterday. But the Falcons also stepped up a gear and deserve credit for that. We just couldn’t get over the line despite a lot of good possession in the first twenty minutes of the second half.

 

The try finally came as we hit seventy minutes, quick thinking from Will Welch and Ally Hogg setting up Noah Cato, who I thought had an ok game and made a lot of metres. Socino converting will help get him confident again after last week.

 

Northampton deserved their bonus point after a clinical attacking display in their first half, the only surprise then was that it took so long. Like Leicester, better teams than us will suffer heavy (or heavier) losses to Northampton this season, so we can take a little bit of heart from that.

 

 

It’s a shame we didn’t get to see a great deal of Alex Tuilagi today, he made some good carries around a few handling errors, but like our whole team the Saints limited his attacking opportunities. Simon Hammersley was again a star among the backs, and one can only hope that his attacking ambition isn’t coached out of him in the coming years. Up front, Hogg probably had a livelier game than last week and Dom Barrow made his presence felt.

 

I would never say defeat is acceptable, but today against the champions is not a game we should worry too much about overall, instead looking at details. For a start, we need to stop gifting good teams scores… keep doing that and this losing run will just continue.

 

But as the commentators said, we didn’t fold after a big half-time deficit and showed character to put in a decent second half. We are continuing to show attacking ambition, and hopefully come the key games against Exeter and London Welsh, we will be able to put something together and get points on the league board.

 

 

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

Carlisle 25-12 Wilmslow

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One thing I have often been critical of the Falcons for in the past, and it’s something a lot of lower-placed teams are probably guilty of, is not taking their chances.

 

So I wasn’t going to make the same mistake. Planning our honeymoon in Scotland, the now-Mrs Leipy asked if I minded us dropping into the Rare Breeds Animal Auction in Carlisle on the way. I wasn’t massively enthusiastic, but knowing that Carlisle Rugby Club also wasn’t too far from the M6, I checked and found that they were at home today.

 

The key to a good marriage is compromise, I am told, so I was happy to go to the auction for a couple of hours as long as I could go to the rugby later. Agreed. So after a proper farmers’ lunch of toad in the hole at the auction (little nephew didn’t finish his Yorkshire pud, clearly it wasn’t up to the standard he had at our house the other week), it was time for a quick walk down the Warwick Road to the rugby ground.

 

Carlisle began the day in fourth place in North One West, having beaten newly-promoted Eccles two weeks ago and then losing at Birkenhead Park. Wilmslow were sixth, also on five points and separated only on points difference.

 

The game kicked off under some grey north Cumbrian clouds, with the sun making occasional appearances to provide warmth offset by an intermittent breeze. The faint scent of grass reminded the 150-odd spectators that we remained in the summer.

 

Both teams wore predominantly dark blue kits, so as well as me not knowing which team was which, I wondered if the referee might have tough time too. After just a few minutes, the team attacking away from the clubhouse won a penalty and a woman near me shouted “Well done Carlisle!”, so I decided correctly that the dark blues with red and white trim were the home side.

 

The penalty, given for away flanker James Keyes straying offside, was kicked low through the posts by Carlisle fly-half James Roche to open the scoring.

 

Ten minutes in, Dan Holmes made a fast break for Carlisle through the middle but dropped the ball when tackled on the 22, however we soon saw the day’s first try. Lively full-back Matthew Minett took a long kick from Wilmslow in his own half and ran thirty metres through several defenders before passing to Matty Roper, the scrum-half quickly finding Holmes on the right and the centre did not need his double overlap to cross five metres in from touch. Rocke couldn’t convert but the Cumbrians had kicked on into an 8-0 lead.

 

Carlisle dropped the kick-off in their 22 and from the scrum Wilmslow moved the ball right. Full-back Jack Harrison was hauled down, but the visitors came left again and Keyes atoned for his earlier misdemeanor by breaking through a tackle and placing the ball on the tryline. Bob McCallum converted the score.

 

The try showed a potentially interesting contrast between the two sides – Carlisle had so far been more than dominant in the scrum, but Wilmslow had moved the ball extremely quickly through their backs for their score, adding intrigue to what was already an enjoyable match.

 

McCallum had the opportunity to put the Cheshire side into the lead for the first time with a relatively simple penalty for offside 25 metres out, but pilled his kick wide. Carlisle had another let-off with a few minutes to go to half-time, when Wilmslow kicked straight out from halfway but were awarded a penalty in the home 22 for dissent. The visitors knocked on in the maul though, and went into half-time 8-7 down.

 

Now, in contrast to other grass roots rugby grounds I have been to, at Carlisle they were happy for spectators to take glasses outside. I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with this, as I didn’t see many other people with pints outside during the first half. I felt better when, walking back to the pitch after half-time, I saw a woman in the passenger seat of a car knocking back a can of Stowford Press.

 

Carlisle attacked early in the second half, losing the ball in a tackle in the 22 but gaining a penalty as Holmes was taken out off the ball – it’s great when you can hear what the referee is saying! Unfortunately for the hosts, the resulting lineout wasn’t thrown straight.

 

The Cumbrians won the ball back though and went through several forward phases on the right, finally moving back to the left and centre Olly Barker fed Martin Brodie for the left-winger to squeeze over just inches in from the touchline. The conversion missed, but within a couple of minutes a quick break from Carlisle saw Minett race through the Wilmslow defence on the right and extend his team’s lead to 18-7.

 

Wilmslow hit back however, gaining a knock-on advantage on the home 22 but not needing to go back with Rocke finding winger Lawrence James on the far right for an unconverted try just before the hour mark.

 

For much of the following ten minutes the game was a midfield battle, with little of note happening, though it was mostly played in the Carlisle half.

 

With ten minutes to go, Carlisle broke and their forwards hammered on the away defence. From a scrum the ball came left but the hosts could not get a scoring pass away. Then in the dying minutes, the bonus-point try finally came. Carlisle came out from their own half through one of the lock forwards racing through several tackles deep into the Wilmslow half, and handing off to the onrushing Minett. The speedy full-back rounded the away defence on the far left and after crossing the line ran behind the posts, leaving himself an easy conversion.

 

The last play of the match saw Wilmslow win a penalty on halfway. Harrison took a superb catch from the up-and-under to the left, but his pass went straight to a Cumbrian defender who kicked for touch to end the game.

 

Carlisle’s 25-12 victory in this enjoyable game keeps them in touch with North 1 West pacesetters Penrith, Vale of Lune and the mighty Kendal, who I may watch in a couple of weeks when they host New Brighton at Mint Bridge.

 

Today’s Eddie Stobarts:

Iris Ann

Jodie Marie

Ellie Mae

Destiny Mai

Jennifer Angela

 

 

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

 

 

Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints

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Sunday 21 September 2014 – 2.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #3

 

This Sunday the Falcons have one last chance to avoid reaching eleven months without a league win, but there would be no better way to end an eighteen-game losing run than by beating the current champions at home.

 

Northampton come to Kingston Park on Sunday having had a mixed start to the season, destroying Gloucester 53-6 with eight tries on the opening night before being swatted 20-16 by Wasps at Adams Park on Sunday.

 

Tries by Ashley Johnson, who was so destructive against the Falcons last Christmas, and Tom Varndell along with Andy Goode and Ruaridh Jackson’s boots condemned the champions to their first defeat of the season, three Stephen Myler penalties and a conversion of Ben Foden’s try leaving the Saints with just a bonus point.

 

Sunday will see Welsh star George North make his first appearance at KP, but he is just one of a multitude of stars at Jim Mallinder’s disposal. Alongside North in the backs squad are the flying Ben Foden and George and Ken Pisi, barnstorming England centre Luther Burrell, and former Falcon Lee Dickson, as well as academy products James Wilson and Jamie Elliott.

 

In the forwards, Alex Corbisiero will be looking to make up for lost time after injury prevented him building on a fantastic Lions tour last year, while Courtney Lawes, Dylan Harley and Tom Wood should also be in England’s World Cup squad in a year’s time.

 

This game last season, like our previous three meetings with the Saints at KP, ended in a win for the Midlanders, though a late try by Noah Cato, converted by new Saints recruit Joel Hodgson, gave us a bonus point. Rory Clegg also kicked three penalties for the Falcons, while the try-scorers for Phil Dowson’s team were Elliott (two) and Tom Stephenson, Myler adding two conversions and a penalty.

 

Saints in Newcastle:

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

01/02/1986      North Road                 Cup 3rd round              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

23/02/2014      Kingston Park             Premiership                 L16-22

 

 

Alex Tuilagi will make his first start in a black shirt on Sunday, while Kieran Brookes returns at loosehead to allow Scott Wilson to make a first Premiership start. Josh Furno moves to the back row in place of Mark Wilson and Dom Barrow joins Calum Green in a beefy, former-Leeds engine room. Sinoti Sinoti is only fit enough for the bench after suffering an injury against London Irish.

 

Falcons team: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Alex Tuilagi, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Kieran Brookes, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Calum Green, 5 Dom Barrow, 6 Josh Furno, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.

 

Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 19 Mark Wilson, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Gonzalo Tiesi, 23 Sinoti Sinoti.

 

 

The unbelievably strong Saints team: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Will Hooley, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 1 Alex Waller, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 4 Courtney Lawes, 5 Christian Day, 6 Calum Clark, 7 Tom Wood, 8 Samu Manoa.

 

Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 James Craig, 20 Jon Fisher, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Dom Waldouck, 23 James Wilson.

 

 

 

 

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

Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 18-20 London Irish

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Sunday 14 September 2014 – 3.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #2

 

That monkey on our backs of now-eighteen league defeats in a row is going to be a tough one to get rid of. In theory, today should have been one of our less difficult games in the Premiership this season but after a big battle against London Irish, we only got a losing bonus point.

 

Many fans will point to Juan Pablo Socino missing a number of kicks, some ostensibly simple, and suggest that had those kicks gone over then we would probably have won comfortably. On the surface that’s true, but it’s simplistic. Every kicker has an off-day with the boot and JP had another decent game otherwise.

 

I could just as easily point out that had we played the way we did last season, Irish would have won easily today. Instead, we made them work to the death for their win. We played the way that will most likely bring about an improvement in league position, with a positive attitude and it was entertaining to watch. Those have to be positives to take from this game that we can build on.

 

Good performances? There were quite a few, particularly from Phil Godman who looks revitalised after a disappointing 2013/14 to say the least. He looks sharper, quicker and is creating far more – perhaps because the coaches are allowing him to. Josh Furno looks to be a real driving force in the forwards and combines beef and athleticism in the Stuart Grimes mould. Adam Powell was everywhere in the backs, finding space and creating it for others with some strong carries. Eric Fry didn’t let us down in the scrum and made plenty of tackles. Scott Lawson was a livewire as usual.

 

It was disjointed at times but I think we are starting to see what the coaches are trying to do. How many aimless kicks did we send into Irish’s half today? I can remember two, one each from Godman and Hammersley in the second half. Other times, we kicked sensibly for the corners and put the pressure on. Brilliant. But the rest of the time, we were able to keep possession and dictate the play when in possession, after struggling so badly last season. I don’t think there were massive errors in the build-up to any of Irish’s scores – some missed tackles perhaps but that happens, nothing structural to panic about.

 

We are coming at this attacking style of play after years of negativity, and things will not click straight away. Players who have been with us for several years will take time to adapt, new players take time to integrate. If we keep trying and keep plugging away, I think we will get there and probably sooner rather than later. We have some real quality players, the attitude and ambition seems to be there – execution is in some ways the easiest thing to add in once everything else is in place. It will take time but no need to panic that it hasn’t happened after two games.

 

It’s annoying to lose a game that I and many thought we could and should have won, given a lot of possession and territory. Northampton at home and Wasps away will be extremely difficult, and a couple of losing bonus points from those would on the face of it not be a disaster, with the winnable Exeter at home and London Welsh away to come. But we really need to get a win, a win from anywhere, just to get some confidence. At home to the champions wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

 

 

This weekend’s Eddie Stobarts (since I remember them this time):

Rochelle Patricia

Kate Madeleine

Imogen Joanne

Carline

Claire Emma

Laura Nicole

Leoni Jordan

 

 

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