Friday 17 October 2014 – 8.00pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
European Rugby Challenge Cup Pool 3 #1
I only watched four of our opening six Premiership games, one of them on TV, but it’s still been a stressful few weeks. Fortunately, that’s where cup games come in, and we now have a month to chill a bit and enjoy some lower-pressure matches, beginning with Bucharest Wolves coming to KP tomorrow night.
It would be a surprise if the Falcons didn’t begin our latest European Rugby Challenge Cup campaign with a win tomorrow night, as long as they are professional and patient. It won’t be easy though – Bucharest’s record in continental combat is not that terrible for team not from the top flight of European rugby. From 56 games in total, going back to 2004, they have won fourteen, lost 41 and drawn one, and have never lost all six games in the group stage (though they’ve also never qualified from a group).
Last year at this stage, the Falcons flew to Romania for the opening round and came home with a slender 12-13 win, thanks to an Adam Powell try. The return at KP in January was all but a dead rubber, as Brive defeated Calvisano on the same night to go through to the quarter-finals, but the Falcons completed their part of the job by beating Bucharest 28-0. Tom Catterick and Ryan Shortland scored tries, while Rory Clegg and Phil Godman’s boots completed the win alongside a penalty try.
The Falcons are defending a decent record on the opening day of European competition, having only lost our first game twice – away to Benetton Treviso in the then-European Shield in 2000, and at home to Newport in the Heineken Cup a year later.
On 17 October, things don’t look quite so good – in the professional era, we’ve never won on this day. The last outing was against Saracens at KP in 2004, when last-minute drop-goals from Mark Bartholomeusz and Jonny Wilkinson extended the level scoreline to 20-20. That game was perhaps most notable for the first return to KP of Falcons cup-winning captain Hugh Vyvyan, who led the Londoners. We have also lost to Sarries and Gloucester in the Premiership on this day, last winning in a friendly at Leeds 22 years ago.
Falcons on 17 October:
1903 Blaydon Wanderers (H) L0-9
1931 Seghill (A) L3-11
1936 Old Novos (H) L12-25
1953 Darlington GSOB (H) L6-20
1959 Sunderland (A) W5-3
1964 Huddersfield (A) W22-3
1970 Huddersfield (A) W17-13
1981 Vale of Lune (H) W25-15
1987 Orrell (H) W15-13
1992 Leeds (A) W37-26
1998 Gloucester (A) Premiership L32-41
1999 Saracens (A) Premiership L6-55
2004 Saracens (H) Premiership D20-20
The other teams in our group are of course Stade Francais and Newport Gwent Dragons, and they get their race to the Stoop underway on Saturday night in the Stade Jean Bouin in Paris.
Dean Richards has made a number of changes to the team for tomorrow night, including bringing in a rookie centre partnership of Tom Penny and Chris Harris. Lee Smith, Warren Fury, Eric Fry and Rob Hawkins get starts, while the academy is represented in the pack by Will Witty and Dan Temm. Andy Saull captains from the back row and there is a welcome return on the bench for Rob Vickers.
15 Lee Smith, 14 Tom Catterick, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Tom Penny, 11 Noah Cato, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Warren Fury; 1 Eric Fry, 2 Rob Hawkins, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Will Witty, 5 Dom Barrow, 6 Dan Temm, 7 Andy Saull (c), 8 Mark Wilson.
Replacements 16 David Nelson, 17 Rob Vickers, 18 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Andy Davies, 22 Craig Willis, 23 Simon Hammersley.
Bucharest Wolves team: 15 Luke Samoa, 14 Florin Ionita, 13 Catalin Dascalu, 12 Csaba Gal (c), 11 Ionut Botezatu, 10 Eugene Jantjies, 9 Florin Surugiu, 1 Constantin Pristavita, 2 Alexandru-Claudiu Oancea, 3 Vlad Badalicescu, 4 Petre Neacsu, 5 Onal Ageacai, 6 Vali-Catalin Mototolea, 7 Razvan Ailenei, 8 Constantin Ene.
Replacements: 16 Catalin Beca, 17 Silviu Vasiliu, 18 Mihai Dico, 19 Alexandru Mitu, 20 Paul Ailenei, 21 Grigoras Diaconescu, 22 Florin Vlaicu, 23 Robert Neagu.
I like the look of our team, a good blend of youth and experience and some exciting pacy players. Particularly looking forward to seeing Tom Penny and Dan Temm in the first team.
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