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):
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