Saturday 11 October 2014 – 2.30pm
Kassam Stadium, Oxford
Aviva Premiership #6
This is the one we’ve been waiting for – the first Big One of the season, and for some, a grudge match after the well-known events surrounding London Welsh’s promotion in 2012. The right decision was made, even if it was in controversial circumstances, and finally now we meet the Exiles in the Premiership.
The table already shows the importance of this game – Welsh are bottom just one point from their five games (a try bonus point at Bath), while the Falcons have five in eleventh, and it is a further five points to Leicester. So it looks like one of us will be ending the table twelfth, but a victory tomorrow to top off Sunday’s win over Exeter would put the Falcons in a good position on that score, considering our respective starts to the season.
While the Falcons have been competitive for the most part, Welsh have struggled. After a 0-52 defeat to Exeter in Oxford on the opening weekend, Justin Burnell’s side have conceded over forty points in each game, and over fifty twice more, including another 52-0 loss at Harlequins last weekend.
That result will have been particularly disappointing for the Exiles after they gained plaudits for the previous weekend’s home performance against Gloucester. 10-15 down to the Cherry and Whites after an hour. The visitors still pulled away though and triumphed 10-46.
On the third weekend, Welsh also conceded 46 at Sale, following on from a 53-26 defeat at Bath where the Exiles got their first and so far only point of the season, thanks to tries from Seb Jewell, Seb Stegmann, Lachlan McCaffrey and former Falcons forward Pete Browne.
Browne is one of two ex-Falcons in the Welsh squad, the other being club captain Tom May, a true KP legend who led the Exiles to the Championship title last term.
May is one of a number of household names at the Kassam Stadium, several of whom were among the twenty-five-odd players signed this summer following promotion. They include experienced Premiership campaigner Dean Schofield, ex-Harlequins centre Tim Molenaar, former England international Olly Barkley and biggest of all, All Black great and World Cup winner Piri Weepu.
It appears that Welsh are struggling to gel a team together so far, and the Gloucester defeat also suggests a fitness issue. Tomorrow will not be easy, but it is a big opportunity for the Falcons to get another win.
We have met London Welsh on five previous occasions, the biggest being a cup semi-final against an Exiles team featuring Wales international John Taylor. Gosforth won 18-12 and the game was featured on TV’s Rugby Special. However, this will be the first time we have played Welsh in the professional era.
Gosforth v London Welsh
02/04/1977 Old Deer Park Cup SF W18-12
17/09/1977 North Road Club Match W12-10
07/02/1987 Old Deer Park Club Match L9-10
23/04/1988 North Road Division 2 L12-14
12/11/1988 North Road Division 2 W34-26
Unsurprisingly, the Falcons have named an unchanged side for tomorrow’s game:
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
London Welsh team: 15 Seb Jewell, 14 Seb Stegmann, 13 Nic Reynolds, 12 Tom May* (c), 11 Nick Scott, 10 Olly Barkley*, 9 Piri Weepu*, 1 Pablo Henn*, 2 Nathan Morris, 3 Taione Vea*, 4 Matt Corker, 5 James Down, 6 Peter Browne 7 Richard Thorpe, 8 Chris Hala’ufia*.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Shane Cahill, 18 Jack Gilding, 19 Dean Schofield*, 20 Ben Pienaar, 21 Rob Lewis, 22 Tristan Roberts, 23 Rhys Crane.
This game is certainly London Welsh’s best chance of a win this season, but if we can win then one might think that they shouldn’t win again before Christmas, having to encounter Wasps and Saracens away and Leicester and Northampton at home before Santa does his thing.
Eight points ahead, give or take a point, and the Falcons can kick on without always looking over their shoulder. On current form, we have to be favourites, and can hopefully celebrate again tomorrow night.
(Follow The South Stand Choir: @SouthStandChoir)