Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 13-18 Sale Sharks

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Sunday 30 November 2014 – 3.15pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #9

 

I had expected to have an afternoon in front of the fire and a few cans today, while watching the game on BT, but about 24 hours before kick-off Mrs Leipy decided I should drive over and watch it live. I didn’t put up too much resistance, not least because the second half of Kendal v Kirkby Lonsdale was about to kick-off so I wasn’t up for a long debate.

 

After I braved the winter sun and wet roads in The Village of the Damned, the M6 was quite quiet, I even got into the left lane on occasion! The A69 was a bit busier, and I missed the turn-off into Westerhope, but still managed to walk the dog (a real live dog, not ‘drink a Brown Ale’) before lunch and kick-off.

 

The Falcons were dealt a blow before kick-off with Oliver Tomaszczyk failing a fitness test, so Scott Wilson started. That was not a disaster in itself, but it meant we had two on-loan (Alex Rogers is practically a Falcons player though, he’s on the bench every week) among the replacements. Kane Thompson and Josh Furno created slightly more interest among supporters.

 

Today’s crowd was never going to match that for the heavily-marketed game against Gloucester, but boosted by a load of youngsters playing for their clubs (including the mighty Kendal!), five and a half thousand is a decent turnout considering the game was on the tellybox. The atmosphere was canny too, particularly in the second half.

 

The Falcons did well early doors, getting a try through a bit of solo magic from Juan Pablo Socino, but after we went 10-5 up Sale really took over I thought and we struggled to get the early tempo back. Our best chance looked to be the two winger Sinoti Sinoti and Alesana Tuilagi, both of whom looked threatening in attack, but they weren’t backed up by the rest of the team breaking the gain line too and it was interesting that in our next dominant period late in the game, we barely made it into Sale’s 22.

 

Danny Cipriani had Sale ticking with some lively passing and intelligent kicks that kept the Falcons under pressure, but again I didn’t think Sale created many try-scoring chances other than their first crossing. Johnny Leota’s try came from a mis-pass by the Falcons and a break led by Cipriani – not making excuses, just saying that our defence was really strong and performed well.

 

The lineout, less so. I’m not sure what went on but we lost at least three to the tail (including a later one on our own five-metre line), and others didn’t seem to go quite into the jumpers’ arms. The scrum was hit-and-miss, strong early on but Sale seemed to get the better of our pack in the set-piece after the first half-hour.

 

Simon Hammersley looked to inject a bit of pace and creativity in the second half but wasn’t able to find a way through Sale’s high-up defence. Another replacement I thought had a canny day was Adam Powell, who replaced Gonzalo Tiesi in the first half. I didn’t notice the aforementioned Furno and Thompson unfortunately, others may have an opinion on them.

 

It seems we are struggling against opposition who get in our faces and deny space to the backs, this happened against Bath and also later on against Gloucester last week. I’m not sure what the answer to that is, as we don’t really have many fast players missing from the pack and half-backs, apart from perhaps Ruki Tipuna but I thought both Mike Blair and later Warren Fury were OK today.

 

Above all, we need to keep working towards playing for eighty minutes. That will come, once it comes it probably won’t be every week, but we should give at least one team (other than London Welsh) a bit of a pounding this season I hope, if we can get everything together.

 

Things are still looking up – for me, a top eight position would be a success this season and a top ten place adequate. We’re not going to win every week, and Sale are a competent side. We still look for more competitive than a year ago.

 

Now it’s time for the belated re-match against Stade Francais and the return to Paris. A couple of weeks to work on things before going to Harlequins for a game that, on recent evidence, looks winnable.

 

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Kendal comeback clinches crucial Cumbrian conquering

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Saturday 29 November 2014 – 2.00pm

Mint Bridge, Kendal

North One West #12

 

If you follow amateur rugby, you don’t need to be told when the clocks change – you just look at the fixture list and see when the kick-off times become earlier or later. Today’s South Lakeland derby at Mint Bridge began at 2pm as Kendal only have floodlights on their training pitch, and a bumper crowd turned out to see the local grudge match and promotion battle against Kirkby Lonsdale.

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It was a chilly start to the day in southern Cumbrialand, but come early afternoon the sun had brought about balmy conditions at Mint Bridge and the clubhouse was full for this clash between what are at the moment Cumbria’s top two clubs, with Kirkby Lonsdale second in North One West and Kendal just one place and five points behind.

 

A perusal of the programme informed that last time out at home, Kendal defeated Widnes in controversial fashion with a late penalty that led to alleged unsporting behaviour from the Cheshire club, with a visiting player sent off after the final whistle.

 

Fortunately there was no such nonsense today.

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Kirkby Lonsdale started off the better, pressing Kendal back into their 22, and getting an early chance through David Bird on the right but the winger was put into touch on five metres.

 

Kirkby took the lead though in bizarre fashion. Scrum-half Ben Walker kicked a penalty from 25 metres that fell well short, but a Kendal defender knocked on and Northumbrian referee Jack Pellew gave another penalty at that point. One fan pointed out to me and others around him that a Kendal player had blocked Kirkby’s advantage from an offside position, giving Walker the chance to atone and knock over the first points of the game with eight minutes gone.

 

The game became gritty for a while, as the teams worked each other out around halfway, before Bird again made a good run but was tackled in the 22.

 

Kendal winger Dini Noyo took a long kick in his own 22 and went to run the ball back at Kirkby before dropping it, the visitors spread quickly to the left but Kendal covered well.

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More points finally came on the half-hour. Kendal were penalised for knocking on at a scrum in their 22 and Stuart Storey drove for the line on the left. Kirkby recycled and found Matt Hughes in the corner, and the giant captain touched down for a try that Walker was unable to convert.

 

Kendal probed for a response but mis-passes and ill-executed kicks squandered possession too easily. Offside at an attacking lineout with two minutes of the first half left seemed to sum up their afternoon so far.

 

0-8 down after the break and facing falling further behind their neighbours in the promotion race, Kendal came out of the huddle fighting, but Nathan Woof missed a penalty after Tom Pickthall failed to release in the tackle.

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After a quarter of an hour of effort, the Hornets finally managed to put a really good spell of attacking possession together. The home pack bashed away at the Kirkby line, with Noyo screaming for the ball on the far side as Kendal had developed a six-on-three option. As the ball was brought out of the pack, Woof moved back inside and the forwards took over again, finally getting the try under a pile of bodies.

 

Woof again missed the conversion but Kendal had their tails up.

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The hosts continued to hold possession, and with fifteen minutes left, the referee sent lock Richard Bainbridge to the bin for an offside in the left of Kirkby’s 22. Kendal tapped and big replacement prop Richard Harryman finished off a forwards move to put his team ahead for the first time on the day. The crucial conversion hit the post, no doubt to the delight of a couple of away fans who were adamant the kick should have been taken from wider out.

 

Just a few minutes later, Kendal’s backs got in on the action. The ball was spread left quickly and Leo Mercer fed Noyo out wide, and the South African winger fought through a tackle to touch down.

 

A seven-point difference meant that Kirkby still had a bonus point, but the visitors were not content with that. On the attack for the first time in ages however, they conceded possession at a penalty lineout.

 

With the Lake District Business Park’s clock showing forty minutes to be up, Kendal threw the ball deep from a scrum in the Kirkby half and Woof kicked for touch, sending the home players wild with delight after a hard-fought but crucial win in the fight for promotion from North One West.

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In a week’s time Kendal head down to the Manchester suburb of Eccles before hosting Wilmslow in their final game of the year, and will be looking to overhaul Kirkby Lonsdale and perhaps Birkenhead Park too to start the year back on top of the table.

 

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Bath 25-6 Harlequins

sam-burgess

I took the rare step of watching some club rugby on the telly last night. Mrs wanted to go to the pub, so I suggested we go for a quick pint and then get back for the second half for when Sam Burgess would hopefully get on, but after tea we decided just to stay in and so I stuck BT Sport on with a can of lager in hand.

 

Classy.

 

The first half an hour would have been difficult viewing for Harlequins fans. Bath had their scrum on toast, winning penalty after penalty, while fast play and patient build-up (I think they go together) allowed the home team to score two good tries as Matt Bananaman and Kyle Eastmond found gaps from close range.

 

For Bath though, obviously, it was a lot of fun. Horacio Agulla and Jonathan Joseph ran Quins ragged outside, and in the forwards Ross Batty was a real driving force.

 

Things settled down after the half-hour mark and Harlequins had a good chance to pull back from 13-3 down when Dave Ward set up Charlie Walker, but the winger was tackled into touch.

 

Speaking of Harlequins wingers, I was disappointed that Ollie Lindsay-Hague wasn’t playing – a product of two of the great British families (probably), you just look at his name and know he plays for Harlequins. Really, really good player as well. I still remember that dummy he threw to completely bamboozle our defence at KP in 2011.

 

Anyway back to the game. So Bath went into half-time 13-3 up and in control, maybe a little disappointed not to have a bigger lead. I’m sure Harlequins didn’t feel great, knowing that Bath still had Irish legend Peter Stringer, in-form Olly Woodburn and of course Burgess to throw at them in the second half.

 

Quite an enjoyable first half then.

 

Harlequins were almost back in the game less than a minute into the second half, Nick Easter making a great run through a gap and going one-on-one with Agulla, but the former England man dallied rather than driving on and was tackled. Harlequins were granted a penalty but the three points really could have been more.

 

Bath took control again, and though a threat from Wayne Barnes to Easter Harlequins honest at the next scrum, the inevitable finally happened. Though the next scrum penalty was deep in Bath’s half, Barnes lost patience and sent Kyle Sinckler to the bin. It wasn’t a surprise for me, Sinckler was thoroughly outdone by Nick Auterac. In fact, I was surprised that Quins took Mark Lambert off near the end of the first half, apparently tactically, rather than the tighthead.

 

George Robson soon followed for a ten-minute breather and you had to feel that it was only a matter of time until Bath scored a third try. Two more simple scrum penalties, and replacement prop Will Collier was sent off, so we went to uncontested scrums… Stuart Hooper quite legitimately pointed to Lambert but Quins insisted he is a loosehead; I’m sure he used to be a tighthead.

 

Still no penalty try, however.

 

Then it was time for the man everyone had come to see to enter the fray: Sam Burgess. But the more things change, the more they stay the same… Danny Care contrived to concede a penalty even from an uncontested scrum, but still Barnes didn’t go under the posts. But Batty touched down from a lineout maul for a try thoroughly deserved by Bath after twenty minutes of complete dominance.

 

The condemned men were returned onto the field for Bath over the course of the next ten minutes and, despite being robbed of thirty minutes of player minutes, Harlequins had conceded only five points. A big effort from Conor O’Shea’s Cockneys, credit where credit’s due.

 

Ironically, as soon as it was 15v15 again, Leroy Houston got the bonus-point try to put Bath out of sight at 25-6 with six minutes left.

 

There was just enough time left for former Newcastle man Batty to be named man of the match for a storming performance and, with 79 minutes on the clock, the irony continued as Harlequins won a penalty at a scrum!

 

Bath ran out 25-6 winners to top the Premiership tonight, though Northampton will surely overtake them on Sunday at the Kassam Stadium and Exeter host Saracens tomorrow. It was a big game from the Bathplugs, who are looking very strong this season, and it reflects well on the Falcons that we competed a lot better at the Rec the other week than Quins did tonight.

 

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Sam the Man much, indeed at all after he came on, and that’s because I didn’t see him very much bar a couple of carries and one big ruck. No biggie though, after all the hype Burgess was likely to fall short of the stratospheric expectations in his first game of union after just four weeks in Bath.

 

Really good game tonight, and Bath look like they will take some stopping in the league this year.

 

 

The rugby fun isn’t stopping for me at least this weekend. Tomorrow is the big derby at Kendal v Kirkby Lonsdale, before the main event on Sunday – the mighty Falcons v Sale. Having to watch on the computer again apparently, but at least I’ll see it. I like having a lot of rugby on TV these days, even if I don’t watch much of it!

 

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks

Hammerhaed-shark

Sunday 30 November 2014 – 3.15pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Aviva Premiership #9

After our victory over Gloucester a week ago, the Falcons are looking to make it three Premiership home wins in a row and four in five league games on Sunday against Sale. It’s a winnable game, but Sale showed their quality last week by beating Harlequins in south London, so it certainly won’t be easy.

Despite an inconsistent start to the season, Sale have had two impressive wins in the last couple of weeks, firstly hammering London Irish 36-8 in Salford before that win at the Stoop. Dan Braid was the Sharks’ hero against Quins with the winning try, while Danny Cipriani kicked eleven points to give the Mancs a 12-16 win.

It was Steve Diamond’s side’s first away win of the season, having previously been downed at Gloucester, Saracens and Northampton in the league and Clermont Auvergne and Leicester in cup combat.

Home form has been better, with only Bath leaving the AJ Bell Stadium with a league win so far this season, and Sale sit a respectable seventh in the table with twenty points, behind Wasps on points difference.

One Shark who has caught the eye recently has been Josh Beaumont, son of England legend Bill and a former Falcons academy man who left us in 2012 without playing a first team game. A lock of a number eight, Beaumont has started the last four games for Sale and will be one to watch on Sunday. He is joined by two other former Newcastle youngsters in winger Charlie Ingall and prop Darren Fearn, the latter moving north from Bedford in the summer.

Steve Diamond’s star signings of this year’s close season were Scottish internationals Chris Cusiter, who replaced Bristol-bound fellow Lion Dwayne Peel, and Nathan Hines.

Now in his third season in the North West after a spell in Australia, the revitalised Danny Cipriani appears to be finally knuckling down and letting his rugby do the talking for him, so much so that he returned to the England side in New Zealand in the summer, and some consider him unlucky to have missed out on the autumn friendlies.

A cursory glance at Sale’s squad shows few star names, but the appearance stats tell a story of a squad that has been built through evolution rather than revolution, contrary to Diamond’s reputation for impulse. Will Cliff, Nick Macleod, David Seymour and Marc Jones are all centurions, as are Magnus Lund and Eifion ‘the big fella’ Lewis-Roberts, both now in their second spell at Sale. Tom Brady, on 96, will likely hit one hundred before the season is out, but Mark Cueto leads the way with 255 appearances and almost a hundred tries – including a record 75 in the Premiership.

Six-cap All Black Dan Braid provides not only leadership from the back row, but with his abrasive style of play alongside the evergreen Seymour, the battle of the loose forwards will be key on Sunday.

Time was that Sale had gone almost two decades without winning a game at KP, but the days when we could almost take a home win against them for granted are long gone.

Two victories in Gary Gold’s era as gaffer were our only wins in six at home to the Sharks, and last year’s 8-16 loss in January sounded pretty dire on the radio. But the 22-19 win in the 2012 relegation battle was an absolute epic.

Rob Miller inspired the Sharks to a 12-19 half-time lead, scoring one of the their tries, and in the early stages of the second half the visitors remained in control. However, with half an hour to go, Gold threw on James Hudson and loan signing Adam Balding as the Falcons prepared to take a lineout in front of the South Stand. From the lineout, Tim Swinson was driven over for a try that sent KP wild.

Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion leveled the scores before the Kiwi added a late penalty, securing four priceless points from a second half that had seen a massive show of defiance from Falcons players and fans. It was surely one of the best atmospheres ever at Kingston Park.

Another game of note was in September 2007. Toby Flood had been left out of the England squad for the World Cup but just two days before the Premiership season-opener, Jamie Noon had been injured in England’s trouncing by South Africa, a game that will perhaps be remembered only for the identity of England’s fly-half: Andy Farrell. Rumour has it that as soon as he heard of the severity of Noon’s injury, our then-manager John Fletcher switched his phone off until after the Sale game.

Flood duly played a blinder in our bonus-point win and the next anyone saw of him was with Brian Ashton’s England squad in France.

Sale at KP:
22/09/1990 Division 2 W7-6
26/09/1992 Division 2 W7-3
03/12/1994 Club Match W40-7
10/03/1998 Premiership 1 W23-18
20/12/1998 Premiership 1 W30-15
29/12/1999 Premiership 1 W12-6
06/01/2001 Cup SF W37-25
11/03/2001 Premiership W48-24
31/03/2002 Premiership W30-10
27/10/2002 Premiership W31-20
21/09/2003 Premiership W9-8
02/01/2005 Premiership W30-29
02/10/2005 Cup W34-9
16/04/2006 Premiership W32-21
26/12/2006 Premiership W40-25
16/09/2007 Premiership W33-12
07/09/2008 Premiership L9-14
13/09/2009 Premiership D16-16
07/01/2011 Premiership D19-19
29/01/2012 Cup W37-7
30/03/2012 Premiership W22-19
03/01/2014 Premiership L8-16

 
Scott Lawson’s injury means that George McGuigan starts and with no hooker on the bench, either he or Rob Vickers will presumably have to play the full eighty minutes. The rest of the starting XV that beat Gloucester get their reward of a go at Sale. Kane Thompson could make his long-awaited Falcons debut from the bench, while Josh Furno and Eric Fry are back among the replacements too.

Falcons team: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Calum Green, 5 Dom Barrow, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Andy Saull, 8 Ally Hogg (c).

Replacements: 16 Alex Rogers, 17 Eric Fry, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Kane Thompson, 20 Josh Furno, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Adam Powell, 23 Simon Hammersley.

 
Sale welcome back a number of internationals on Sunday, and have a big Antipodean centre partnership in Jonny Leota and Sam Tuitupou who will surely test Gonzalo Tiesi and Juan Pablo Socino. Josh Beaumont starts in the pack.
Sale team: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Luke McLean, 13 Jonny Leota, 12 Sammy Tuitupou, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Chris Cusiter, 1 Eifion Lewis Roberts, 2 Marc Jones, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 4 Jonathan Mills, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 6 Dan Braid (c), 7 Magnus Lund, 8 Josh Beaumont.

Replacements: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Alberto de Marchi, 18 Ross Harrison, 19 Mark Easter, 20 Viliami Fihaki, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Nick Macleod, 23 Mark Jennings.

 
There’s surely no reason we can’t get a third successive home league win on Sunday if we play to our potential, and this could be quite a good game. Can’t wait to watch it.

 
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 20-10 Gloucester Rugby

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Friday 21 November 2014 – 8.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #8

 

Brilliant, just brilliant. The game wasn’t perfect but what a fantastic result that was for the tenth-placed (yes, we are moving up slowly but surely!) Falcons!

 

It was, for the most part, an intelligent performance last night I would say. In the first half we recovered from an early cock-up that gave Gloucester a try after less than thirty seconds to dominate possession and territory in the opening forty. We battered on the door but Gloucester’s defence held us at the 22 and there were few try-scoring chances, but kicks allowed the Falcons to go into half-time 9-7 ahead.

 

In the second half, we tried for a while to replicate that dominance and got a reward with Sinoti Sinoti’s try, but eventually the players’ energy levels dropped, as happens with a team of our standard. But we didn’t try to force things, instead defending valiantly and putting Gloucester under big pressure at the breakdown to prevent quick ball as much as possible. In the end, it all worked and the Falcons got a fantastic victory to move up to tenth in the Premiership ahead of London Irish’s hosting of Bath this afternoon.

 

I think we really needed that victory last night. With all due respect to these teams, two of our four victories last month had been over London Welsh and Bucharest, and after three defeats this month we needed a win to suggest that Northampton-Cardiff-Bath was the blip, not October.

 

This might not have been the best team Gloucester have ever brought to KP, but they were a competent side who gave it a good go in the second half so we should be well-pleased with four points. Now we move on to Sale, another difficult but very winnable game.

 

There were a few individuals who needed and had big games last night. Oliver Tomaszczyk has been very much our third choice number three this season but he kept his discipline and had a big game both in the scrum and the loose, playing a big part in our strong breakdowns. Alex Tuilagi looks far leaner than in the summer and made a lot of yards, which is presumably why we signed him, definitely his best game in a Falcons shirt so far.

 

Rory Clegg? Well, his ponderous kick led to Gloucester’s try and he was off-target early from the tee, but the little prince kept his head up and went on to have a really good night I thought. Good distribution, some incisive running, and match-winning kicks. Oh, and a big tackle on halfway on a rampaging Gloucester forward. Can’t really ask for more than that. Clegg looks a far more confident player now compared to last year and we can only hope that continues.

 

Juan Pablo Socino seemed to revel in the centre, making a lot of creative runs and setting up attacking platforms that the rest of the backs could feed off. I think we need to overlook this guy’s inconsistent goalkicking for a little while and realise that we have a real gem of a player there who is probably our most creative midfielder, once we really gel him into the team in one position I think JP will be a big star.

 

Finally, what a fantastic atmosphere there was last night. I decided to go for a bottle of coke at half-time rather than a beer due to the queues, but it was great to see the South Stand bar busy. For once, the Falcons actually put on a good show for a big crowd too, so hopefully we’ve put at least another few hundred on the attendance for Sale now.

 

I really think things are looking up now. Believe it or not, and of course we need to ignore games in hand, the Mighty Falcons are now not just twelve points off the bottom and thirteen points off top. A top ten finish is not out of the question. Top eight? We’ll know more next Sunday.

 

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Gloucester Rugby

2.5 lts High Gloss Paint

Friday 21 November 2014 – 8.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #8

 

The Falcons are entering a massive ten days… two extremely winnable home games. The first is against Gloucester tomorrow night, when Kingston Park is set to welcome its highest crowd since promotion last year.

 

Gloucester are eighth in the Premiership at the moment with three wins and sixteen points from their seven games. Their season began with a 53-6 pounding away to Northampton, while the Cherry ‘n’ Whites also struggled for a long time away to London Welsh in September before leaving Oxford with a comfortable-looking 10-46 win. Leicester were then sent packing from Kingsholm contemplating a 33-16 defeat in October.

 

However, Exeter won in Gloucester early in the season and last Friday night, Harlequins were victorious at Kingsholm for the first time this century, Conor O’Shea’s team winning 15-22 thanks to Nick Easter, Luke Wallace and Charlie Walker’s tries. David Humphreys’ hosts led 12-10 at half-time (and led 12-0 at one stage) but didn’t score a try all night.

 

In the cups, Gloucester are going well, with two wins in the Challenge Cup against Brive and Oyonnax and a victory at London Welsh in the LV= Cup, which followed a tight 28-27 loss at Exeter.

 

One player who should (I write before the teams are named) be of interest to Falcons fans tomorrow night is James Hudson, the only former KP man in the Gloucester squad. After a slow start to his Kingsholm career, Huddo has been a regular in the Cherry ‘n’ White engine room this season alongside veteran Tom Palmer, who joined from Wasps in the summer.

 

Palmer’s England career may be more than likely over at the age of 35, and two years since the last of his 42 caps, but Gloucester fans’ attention at Twickenham on Saturday will be focused on Billy Twelvetrees, Jonny May and Ben Morgan, both try-scorers for England this autumn. Matt Kvesic will be looking to show that Steffon Armitage is not the only alternative to Chris Robshaw for the national number seven shirt, while James Hook is looking to get back into the Wales side. Charlie Sharples may need a beast of a run to make the World Cup as Chris Ashton and David Strettle show good form for Saracens but fail to make the England 23.

 

One reason why the Falcons should be confident ahead of tomorrow night, bar our rejuvenation this season and Gloucester’s erratic form, is that the south-westerners’ win at KP last season was their first up here since Christmas 2007.

 

A 13-8 half-time lead that day was squandered as we only managed a Phil Godman penalty after the break to go with two from Rory Clegg and the latter’s conversion of Tom Catterick’s early try, while Freddie Burns’ boot complemented scores by Rob Cook and the aforementioned May to give the visitors victory.

 

Further to our canny record against Gloucester at home in recent games, our wins over them around the turn of the decade were often crucial. Tom May’s late penalty in January 2009 (I still remember the incredible tension) set us set the Falcons up for a run of seven wins from eight league games. A year later, a 25-13 victory on a Wednesday night in March was only our second Premiership home win of the season but it was a key result in winning that year’s relegation battle.

 

December 2011’s meeting was Alan Tait’s last Premiership victory as Falcons gaffer, achieved with the help of a try by a player who had burst onto the scene with Gloucester, not least in the LV= Cup final between the two sides the previous season: Jordi Pasqualin. Our other try-scorer that night? The also-enigmatic James Fitzpatrick.

 

Incidentally, Scott Lawson scored one of Gloucester’s three tries in the last of his four seasons at Kingsholm.

 

 

Gloucester in Newcastle:

12/03/1977             North Road                Cup QF           W3-0

10/02/1990             Gateshead                  Cup R4           L15-26

28/11/1992             Kingston Park            Cup R3           W13-10

18/09/1993             Kingston Park            Division 1       D12-12

14/12/1997             Kingston Park            Premiership 1W37-27

25/04/1999             Kingston Park            Premiership 1W39-15

30/04/2000             Kingston Park            Premiership 1W36-28

06/09/2000             Kingston Park            Premiership   L18-19

18/11/2001             Kingston Park            Premiership   W18-16

15/09/2002             Kingston Park            Premiership   L19-22

05/10/2003             Kingston Park            Premiership   W42-22

27/02/2005             Kingston Park            Premiership   D27-27

19/02/2006             Kingston Park            Premiership   L9-13

13/04/2007             Kingston Park            Premiership   W19-12

23/12/2007             Kingston Park            Premiership   L13-20

02/11/2008             Kingston Park            Cup                 L10-11

11/01/2009             Kingston Park            Premiership   W10-7

31/03/2010             Kingston Park            Premiership   W25-13

21/11/2010             Kingston Park            Premiership   W12-6

02/12/2011             Kingston Park            Premiership   W26-25

29/09/2013             Kingston Park            Premiership   L16-22

 

 

The Falcons have made a large six changes to the team that went to Bath last week, with Adam Powell and Scott Wilson dropping to the bench with knocks and Rory Clegg starting, sending Juan Pablo Socino into the centre. Oliver Tomaszczyk, Scott Lawson, Mike Blair and Alex Tait come into the starting lineup while Ally Hogg captains at number eight.

 

Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Calum Green, 5 Dom Barrow, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Andy Saull, 8 Ally Hogg (c).

 

Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Chris York, 21 Ruki Tipuna, 22 Adam Powell, 23 Simon Hammersley.

 

 

Gloucester’s experienced second row partnership of Tom Palmer and James Hudson stands out in the visiting side, along with full-back Steve McColl, formerly of Leeds/Yorkshire and rumoured to have interested Dean Richards during our season in the Championship, who makes his Premiership start. Tighthead prop John Afoa is reported to be the league’s highest-paid player.

 

Gloucester: 15 Steve McColl, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Billy Meakes, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Dan Robson, 1 Yann Thomas, 2 Darren Dawidiuk, 3 John Afoa, 4 Tom Palmer, 5 James Hudson, 6 Tom Savage, 7 Matt Kvesic (c), 8 Ross Moriarty.

 

Replacements: 16 Luke Cole, 17 James Gibbons, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Tom Isaacs.

 

 

Don’t forget to Bring The Noise tomorrow night – come on Falcons!!

 

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Match reaction: Bath Rugby 23-14 Newcastle Falcons

photo 1 (5)

Saturday 15 November 2014 – 5.00pm

The Recreation Ground, Bath

Aviva Premiership #7

 

I started writing this last night in the hotel lounge, the sound of ‘Mysterious Girl’ in my ears from the wedding reception next door ringing in my ears. I glanced in – yes, the dance floor was empty.

 

It seemed a bit calmer than the wedding Mrs Leipy and I were at last Saturday. A rough-looking bloke walked into the lounge at one stage and seemed to think better of it. Clearly I and the old couple reading in the other corner look more threatening than I’d thought.

 

Speaking of threatening, I now turn to the game yesterday. Threatening isn’t really a word that could be applied to our backs for most of the game – Bath’s defence did a great job of putting pressure on Sinoti Sinoti and Alesana Tuilagi and preventing either getting much space. JP Socino was also on the back foot in open play a lot of the time and so wasn’t able to use his creativity to relieve any pressure.

 

It was a game of two halves. The first was pretty even, in fact I think we might just have shaded it but Bath went in three points ahead. Then they really stepped it up in the second half and pinned the Falcons back in our 22. Bath’s second try may have been aided by one of the most blatant examples of blocking a defender that I’ve ever seen, but it had been coming for several minutes.

 

It was only a massive defensive effort that stopped Bath getting a bigger win and the bonus point they will have been looking for. I think the Falcons deserved a losing bonus point but it was not to be, Gavin Henson’s late penalty making the hosts’ win safe.

 

I was impressed with Henson yesterday, nothing that flashy but a very professional performance and he controlled the game well. It seems he has overcome a lot of his problems and is getting back to what he does best. Good stuff.

 

From the Falcons’ point of view, our set pieces held up well yesterday but I think we couldn’t really match Bath’s pace and intensity, particularly in the second half when it seemed all we could do just to defend against a big home pack and a hungry set of backs.

 

Individually, I don’t think we really had anybody stand out for good or bad reasons. The back three were just shut down and the half-backs denied time and space. I can’t really give an opinion on Sean Robinson’s Premiership debut as I didn’t really notice him unfortunately.

 

We can’t be too despondent though, lets not forget that Leicester lost 45-0 at the Rec earlier this season. The Falcons now have two huge home games coming up that we really need to get at least one win from. Gloucester have their own problems at the moment so Friday is a great opportunity to get back to winning ways.

 

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)