Sunday 5 October 2014 – 3.00pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Aviva Premiership #5
After hitting the mark of twenty consecutive Premiership defeats at Adams Park on Sunday, the Falcons’ opponents don’t get any easier this week as Exeter look to maintain their perfect league record against us.
The Chiefs have won all six Premiership encounters between the two sides since their 2010 promotion, and after being tipped by many pundits to struggle this season, they have just gone about their business quietly as they always do and sit a heady fourth in the table, with three wins and fourteen points from the opening four rounds.
2014/15 began for Exeter with a 0-52 destruction of newly-promoted London Welsh in Oxford, debutant Thomas Waldrom scoring two of the south-westerners’ seven tries. There then followed a narrow 20-24 defeat at home to Waldrom’s former employers Leicester, before Rob Baxter’s team got the wheels back on at Kingsholm, where they were this time on the right side of a tight scoreline.
A second-half comeback by the hit-and-miss Gloucester couldn’t prevent Exeter marching on with a 22-25 win, followed up by an impressive 36-13 victory over Harlequins at Sandy Park this past Sunday. Waldrom was again among the try-scorers, prompting Baxter to lobby for the Tank Engine’s recall to the England team, for whom the New Zealand native controversially won five caps in 2012 and 2013.
Waldrom is not the only Chief who will be hopeful of an international call – Henry Slade has mostly been used in the centres this season as veteran Gareth Steenson wears the ten shirt, but the former has been tipped to challenge Owen Farrell for the national fly-half role in next year’s World Cup. This pair compete with ever-green Welshman Ceri Sweeney for their club starting place, and are complemented at half-back by the snappy Haydn Thomas, who had such a good game against us in Devon last Christmas, ex-Gloucester man Dave Lewis, or former Falcon Will Chudley.
In the back five, the star name at Sandy Park is England’s Jack Nowell. Just 21, Nowell started in every Six Nations game last season and scored his debut international try against Italy in Rome on the final weekend.
Hooker Jack Yeandle has captained Exeter so far this season as Dean Mumm recovers from shoulder surgery, but perhaps the most interesting name in the Chiefs’ pack is Moray Low, the Scottish international prop who joined from Glasgow in the summer and whose name can (in my opinion) only be said while impersonating Andrew Cotter. Try it.
Low and Waldrom’s signings suggest that Exeter are perhaps looking to bring in more big names in the future, though a glance at their side shows that graft is probably still Rob Baxter’s keyword, and why not, after becoming a thoroughly-established Premiership side on that philosophy.
So the Chiefs will be looking to maintain their perfect league record against the Falcons, our most recent meeting being a disappointing 13-23 defeat at KP on the final day of last season, incidentally the same scoreline as the equivalent game in 2010/11. The Chiefs led 6-15 at half-time, our points coming from two Joel Hodgson penalties, and Mark Wilson’s converted try was not enough even for a losing bonus point.
Exeter at KP:
03/01/1998 Cup R4 W34-10
06/02/2011 Cup W17-3
18/02/2011 Premiership L13-23
07/01/2012 Premiership L10-16
10/05/2014 Premiership L13-23
Noah Cato returns to the Falcons team on Sunday in place of Simon Hammersley, Alex Tait moving to full-back, the rest of the starting lineup remaining the same from Wasps. Alesana Tuilagi’s absence means Tom Catterick could make a first appearance of the season from the bench, where he sits alongside Mike Blair.
Falcons team: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Noah Cato, 10 Juan Pablo Socino, 9 Ruki Tipuna, 1 Kieran Brookes, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Calum Green, 5 Dom Barrow, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 19 Josh Furno, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Mike Blair, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Tom Catterick.
Exeter team: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Tom James, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Will Chudley, 1 Ben Moon, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 3 Tomas Francis, 4 Don Armand, 5 Damian Welch, 6 Dave Ewers, 7 Ben White, 8 Thomas Waldrom.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Moray Low, 19 Ryan Caldwell, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Sam Hill, 23 Chrysander Botha.
Twenty successive defeats means it’s about time we got a notch in the win column. Perfect timing Sunday would be too, ahead of next week’s crunch match at London Welsh. Come on!
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)