Saturday 11 October 2014 – 2.30pm
Kassam Stadium, Oxford
Aviva Premiership #6
That was a funny game yesterday. Strange atmosphere, Falcons dominant in the first half and dominated but still triumphant in the second. 3-23 was probably in the middle of expectations but looking at the game overall, it was a satisfying afternoon’s work.
I had thought that a big bonus point win would demoralise Welsh and give us a big boost, while a tight win after Welsh threw the kitchen sink at us would do the same. We got a bit of both, without the bonus point.
That defence in the second half was fantastic, even in the face of several penalties and a yellow card, and should give the team plenty of heart. As others have said, Mark Wilson’s absence for ten minutes in the bin made such little difference that some of us had forgotten he was even off.
To be honest, we were helped a lot by Welsh’s basics deserting them at times – several of their attacking moves broke down through knock-ons. But then our upfront defence will have added pressure too.
It’s tricky to pick a man of the match from that solid performance. Welsh really struggled to live with Sinoti Sinoti, as many teams do, and Ruki Tipuna definitely bested Piri Weepu at scrum-half in the first 40. Dom Barrow was perhaps the forward with the most drive towards the opposition.
What was very good to see was Rory Clegg’s performance off the bench. Sharp and mostly accurate with the boot, he opened the play up and brought people in. He doesn’t make breaks like JP Socino, but then that’s why he’s not first choice. Clegg’s still a competent player and I’m sure he will make some important contributions this season.
So this win puts us in a decent position now, eight ahead of Welsh after what should have been their easiest game of the season.
We can hopefully now reduce the pressure a bit, kick on and get some better results in the league, perhaps a losing bonus point at least at Bath (probably the best we should expect), and then at least one win from Gloucester and Sale at home.
What obviously we can’t do is relax and get complacent, as if Worcester had got things together a bit earlier last season we might have paid a real price for our calamitous form.
I don’t think that will happen now though. We have four cup games, from which three wins is a realistic target, to get combinations together and fringe players sharper, and then hopefully we can give Bath a little shock.
After looking adrift with London Welsh two weeks ago, the Falcons may still be in eleventh place in the table but are just two points behind Sale and Wasps (ahead of Wasps’ game with Bath today) and three behind London Irish, so if we can get a few more wins this season, we might be able to get a respectable league position come May.
A few thoughts now on the Kassam Stadium, where Welsh play to meet Premiership criteria.
I can’t believe that playing in front of 2,000 people, 10,000 empty seats, and two huge empty stands serves Premiership Rugby better than playing at a traditional ground like Old Deer Park.
Welsh must be losing a fair whack of money on that ground, there was little atmosphere among the home fans, and it can’t be much fun for the players to play in front of a small crowd in a big ground. At times, when we were quiet too, yesterday had the air of a training game.
Still, that is the apples and the Falcons got four welcome and vital points. We away fans had a cracking time. Good stuff.
This weekend’s Eddie Stobarts:
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