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.
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