Friday 7 November 2014 – 8.00pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
LV= Cup Pools 2 and 3 #2
Tomorrow night, for the second time in three games, the Falcons face Welsh opposition, this time in the form of Cardiff Blues. This could be an intriguing match, as the Blues’ Arms Park ground also has an artificial pitch, so the Kingston Park surface will hold no fears for them.
More concerning for the capital side, managed by Director of Rugby Mark Hammett, will be their form so far this season. In seven Pro12 games, the Blues have won only once, and that was on the opening weekend away to Zebre. Since then, they have been beaten at home by Glasgow and Ulster, and away to Leinster and Ospreys, having only a draw in Connacht to show for their efforts before last Saturday’s 24-28 loss to Munster in Wales.
A late try by flanker Paddy Butler condemned Cardiff to defeat, after Gareth Davies’ penalty looked to have secured a vital win.
Tomorrow will be our fourth meeting with the Blues since the regionalisation of Welsh professional rugby in 2003. We didn’t meet until 2010, the first clash coming at Cardiff City Stadium where the Blues spent less than three years before returning to the Arms Park in 2012.
That game was in this competition at the end of January, on a very cold day in south Wales. Cardiff put out a strong team including Welsh internationals Tom Shanklin, Sam Warburton and Dafydd James, with Gareth Thomas on the bench, among others, and triumphed 45-24, taking advantage of red cards for Ed Williamson and Rob Vickers.
Vickers, a try-scorer, had come on as a replacement for the lesser-spotted Alex Walker, who had already scored a hat-trick. Other interesting names on the teamsheet are Michael Tait, Josh Afu on the bench, oh and Matt Thompson wearing the number three shirt.
Two months later, a far stronger Blues team featuring Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts, Gethin Jenkins, Martyn Williams and Xavier Rush came north to teach the Falcons a rugby lesson in the quarter-final of the Amlin Challenge Cup. Charlie Amesbury and Micky Young scored for the Falcons but we were well beaten 20-55, in a game that marked Chris Micklewood’s only appearance in a black shirt.
Our most recent meeting with the Blues was in October 2011, just hours after France had controversially dumped Wales out of the World Cup. Greg Goosen was the Falcons’ hat-trick hero at KP against a scratch Cardiff side (the most recognisable name for me being Owen Williams, who suffered such a terrible injury this summer), and further scores from Michael Mayhew and Mark Wilson completed a 33-3 win. Other unusual names on our teamsheet that day are Rikki Sheriffe, Darren Fearn, Glen Townson and Redford Pennycook.
That game has a bit of significance for me, as it took place exactly a week before I met Mrs Leipy.
Although Dean Richards has brought several stars back the first team after a few weeks’ cup rest, with ten changes to last week, Cardiff’s Welsh stars will be focused on meeting the Wallabies on Saturday at the Millennium Stadium. Sam Warburton, Gethin Jenkins, Alex Cuthbert and Cory Allen are all in Warren Gatland’s 23. Two-time Lion Adam Jones, Jenkins’ front row partner in crime for so many years who joined from Ospreys in the summer, is missing from the international side however.
Alex Tait, Noah Cato, Gonzalo Tiesi, Adam Powell, Juan Pablo Socino, Scott Wilson, Richard Mayhew and Mark Wilson are all back for tomorrow night. Alex Rogers makes a first Falcons start, allowing Rob Vickers to move to hooker, though we have two on the bench in that position in fit-again George McGuigan and young David Nelson. Chris York is fit enough for a place on the bench and Andy Saull continues as captain in Will Welch’s absence.
Falcons team: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Alex Tuilagi, 10 Juan Pablo Socino, 9 Ruki Tipuna, 1 Alex Rogers, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Calum Green, 5 Dom Barrow, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Andy Saull (c), 8 Mark Wilson.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 David Nelson, 18 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 19 Scott Macleod, 20 Chris York, 21 Mike Blair, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Chris Harris.
Cardiff have named a side with a mix of youth and experience, though one interesting name in their side is former Leicester man and Argentine international Lucas Amorosino in the centres. Scrum-half Tavis Knoyle and prop Scott Andrews also have some Wales caps.
Blues team: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Tom Williams, 13 Lucas Amorosino, 12 Garyn Smith, 11 Harry Davies, 10 Simon Humberstone, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 1 Thomas Davies, 2 Rhys Williams, 3 Scott Andrews, 4 Lou Reed, 5 Chris Dicomidis, 6 Jevon Groves, 7 Ellis Jenkins (c), 8 Rory Watts-Jones.
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Callum Lewis, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Miles Normandale, 20 Ben Roach, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Will Thomas, 23 Jack Phillips.
Should be an interesting game, this one, and hopefully a good win to send us down to Bath next week in good form.
P.S. The other results we should be looking out for this weekend in the LV= Cup are Scarlets v Northampton tonight, and Sunday’s games between Wasps v London Irish and Leicester v Sale, hoping for three away wins.
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)