Friday 5 December 2014 – 8.00pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
European Challenge Cup Pool 3 #3
It’s the game we’ve waited almost ten years for. The Rematch v Stade Francais. Crazy-shirted Stade may be a shadow of the team that took us apart at the Parc des Princes back in 2005 and went on to contest the Heineken Cup Final that year, but I’d really, really love us to give them a pounding tomorrow night.
Enough of that for now though. We might never get a chance, as Stade have had a poor (by their old lofty standards) start to the Challenge Cup campaign, losing 22-38 at home to Newport Gwent Dragons before a narrow 9-13 win in Bucharest. Some stars like Sergio Parisse and Pascal Pape have been left out of their European squad but Southern Hemisphere internationals Digby Ioane, David Lyons and Morne Steyn as well as France scrum-half Julien Dupuy are registered.
Focusing on the Top 14 seems to be working so far for Stade with 35 points and eight wins from their opening twelve matches putting the Parisians in third place.
Stade began the season with a tight win at Castres and also won 24-28 in Toulon in September thanks to tries from Alexandre Flanquart and Julien Arias in the first half, and fifteen points from the boot of Jules Plisson after the break. Those results contrast with a 51-9 hammering away to Clermont Auvergne in November.
On Sunday, the thirteen-times French champions beat Brive 20-17 at the Stade Jean-Bouin to consolidate their play-off spot.
Last season’s European campaign for Gonzalo Quesada’s side ended in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals with a 6-29 loss at home to Harlequins. They were finalists in 2013 but lost to Leinster heavily at the RDS.
This is Stade’s fifth consecutive Challenge Cup campaign, something that would have been unthinkable a decade ago when our two sides last met. 3,000 Falcons fans flocked to the French capital by plane, train, boat and bus hopeful for probably the most famous win in our history. We sang, we shouted, we waved a truckload of flags, but unfortunately it was not to be.
Stade controlled the game from almost the word go, Alain Rolland and Rob Andrew getting their wires crossed on interpretation of the rolling maul and the home side ran amock. Full-back Oliver Sarramea scored three of Stade’s seven tries, while a try and penalty from Matthew Burke was all the white-clad Falcons could muster. Epi Taione’s late card just added insult to injury.
At the end of the day, nobody was really depressed about losing to a side featuring the likes of Stephane Glas, Brian Liebenberg, David Skrela, Agustin Pichot and Mauro Bergamasco, while the Falcons were missing Jonny Wilkinson and Colin Charvis through injury. We had a big long night out in Paris, and were grateful to the team for giving us an excuse for being there.
The Falcons team that day, none of whom are at KP any longer: Burke, May, Noon (c), Mayerhofler, Stephenson (M Tait), Walder (Flood), Charlton (Grindal), Isaacson (Wilson), Long, Ward (Thompson), Parling (Gross), Grimes, McCarthy (Taione), Harris, Dowson.
For tomorrow night, Dean Richards has again employed a number of youngsters to up the EQP quota (19 of our 23 are English-qualified) and give academy and fringe players outings, though we are kind-of forced to do that anyway with a number of experienced non-English players not registered. Tom Catterick’s game at fly-half will be interesting, and Kieran Brookes returns from England duty. Kane Thompson makes a long-awaited first start in a black shirt.
Falcons team: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 AlexTait, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Chris Harris, 11 Noah Cato, 10 Tom Catterick, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Eric Fry, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Kane Thompson, 5 Scott Macleod, 6 Sean Robinson, 7 Dan Temm, 8 Chris York.
Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Dom Barrow, 20 Ben Morris, 21 Ruki Tipuna, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Tom Penny.
Of the Stade Francais 23 named for tomorrow night, only two were in the squad that we met in 2005 – captain Pierre Rabadan was on the bench at the Parc des Princes, as was Jerome Fillol who will again be a replacement this week.
Stade team: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Jérémy Sinzelle, 13 Herman Meyer Bosman, 12 Krisnan Inu, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Julien Tomas, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta, 2 Aled De Malmanche, 3 Davit Kubriashvili, 4 Paul Gabrillagues, 5 Gerhard Mostert, 6 Nicolas Garrault, 7 Pierre Rabadan (c), 8 Jonathan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Zurabi Zhvania, 17 Romain Frou, 18 Adrien Oleon, 19 Julien Nibert, 20 Matthieu Ugena, 21 Jerome Fillol, 22 Vincent Mallet, 23 Benjamin Dumas.
It’s time to put the record straight, come on Falcons!
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