Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks

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Sunday 1 February 2015 – 3.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

LV= Cup Pools 2 and 3 #3

 

A European Challenge Cup quarter-final spot has been secured, and now attention turns to the final group rounds of this season’s LV= Cup.

 

The pool stage wraps up at the Madejski Stadium against London Irish a week tomorrow, after Sale visit Kingston Park for the second time this season on Sunday. We have met the Sharks regularly in cup competition down the years, most famously in the 2004 final at Twickenham and a semi-final at KP three years previously. The two northern sides have also met thrice in the Anglo-Welsh competition.

 

Perhaps the most interesting of those three games was in January 2012, when Gary Gold took charge of the Falcons for the first time after replacing Alan Tait as manager. Optimism was high among the 4,000 home fans in attendance but we were silenced by Nick MacLeod’s early try that he himself converted, putting Sale 3-7 up. It took until the half-hour for the Falcons to retake the lead, when Mark Wilson’s converted try was added to two earlier Jimmy Gopperth penalties, and the Falcons led 13-7 at half-time.

 

In the second half, we pulled away with further tries by Rob Vickers, Tim Swinson and Gopperth, gaining a bonus-point win in the first game of a new era. Gary Gold’s first Falcons squad, only five of whom are still at KP, was: J Gopperth, R Shortland, C Uys, J Fitzpatrick, S Hufanga, J Hodgson, C Pilgrim, G Shiells, R Vickers, J Hall, A Fondse, T Swinson, A Hogg, W Welch, M Wilson (Replacements: M Mayhew, J Golding, A Wells, R Boyle, T Tu’ifua, R Mayhew, W Chudley, T Bedford).

 

We have a great record in cup combat against Sale, with only one defeat down the years – a bit of a rubbish loss in 2006.

 

Gosforth/Falcons v Sale in cups:

29/09/1973         North Road                         RFU Cup Preliminary       W18-6

03/04/1976         Heywood Road John Player Cup SF                            W12-3

06/01/2001         Kingston Park                     Tetley’s Bitter Cup SF     W37-25

17/04/2004         Twickenham                       Powergen Cup Final        W37-33

02/10/2005         Kingston Park                     Powergen Cup                  W34-9

29/09/2006         Edgeley Park                      EDF Energy Cup               L5-28

29/01/2012         Kingston Park                     LV= Cup                              W37-7

 

 

After a heavy defeat at Northampton and a narrow home reverse against Cardiff Blues, the Falcons have but a slight mathematical chance to win our pool in this cup and get through to the semi-finals. With just a point from two games, we trail Leicester by eight points.

 

Pool 3:

Leicester 9 points

Wasps 7 points

Newcastle 1 point

Scarlets 1 point

 

Sale began their LV= Cup campaign with a 32-29 victory over Wasps in Salford, MacLeod’s penalty with five minutes left sealing a bonus-point win after Alex Lozowski had equalised minutes earlier. Then then went to Welford Road and were soundly beaten 29-13 by Leicester, despite leading 3-13 at half-time. Those results mean that Sale have five points, and sit third in Pool 2 behind Northampton on nine and Cardiff Blues on eight.

 

 

The weekend’s other fixtures relevant to us are:
Leicester v Northampton (Tomorrow 3pm)

Scarlets v London Irish (Tomorrow 6.30pm)

Wasps v Cardiff Blues (Sunday 1pm)

 

On Sunday, I would like to see the Falcons go out to put on a good, attacking show and win the game, and then hopefully do the same against London Irish next weekend, in preparation for returning to league action. These games don’t really matter as we aren’t likely to go through, but the best teams (and we aspire to be among them) don’t throw games, every game matters to them. I subscribe to the theory that if you perform when it doesn’t matter, then you’re far more likely to do so when it does matter.

 

 

The Falcons have named an interesting team for Sunday, with rare starts for Rob Hawkins and Alex Rogers in the front row, and Uili Kolo’ofai has recovered from another injury to start at eight. I don’t think anyone would have predicted that we’d see a three-quarter line of Lee Smith, Jamie Helleur, Anitelea Tuilagi and Danny Barnes in a game this season! Phil Godman is also fit again and is on the bench.

 

Falcons team: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Lee Smith, 13 Jamie Helleur, 12 Anitelea Tuilagi, 11 Danny Barnes, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Ruki Tipuna; 1 Eric Fry, 2 Rob Hawkins, 3 Alex Rogers, 4 Josh Furno, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Andy Saull (c), 8 Uili Kolo’ofai.

 

Replacements 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Rob Vickers, 18 Mark Irving, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Ally Hogg, 21 Mike Blair, 22 Phil Godman, 23 Simon Hammersley.

 

 

Sale team: Luke McLean, Tom Brady, Andy Forsyth, Sam Bedlow, Phil Mackenzie, Joe Ford, Nathan Fowles, Alberto de Marchi, Tommy Taylor, Ciaran Parker, Andrei Ostrikov, George Nott, Mark Easter, TJ Ioane, Viliami Fihaki.

 

Replacements: Shalva Mamukashvili, Maxim Cobilas, James Flynn, Nathan Hines, Andy Hughes, Will Cliff, Nick Macleod, Sam James.

 

 

So I’m guessing that team we’re putting out on Sunday won’t start at Sandy Park in a fortnight, but it’s a good opportunity to get some game time into fringe and recovering players’ legs, and hopefully get a win to make up for the Newport game.

 

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

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