Saturday afternoon in the bar

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I wrote this yesterday, so imagine it as Saturday afternoon:

 

This was supposed to be a blog about Italy v Ireland, but with my attention torn between a silent big screen, the sound blasts of arcade machines, the Falcons’ Twitter feed, and a pint of Budweiser, it turned into more of a “What’s going on in the big rugby games right now?” kind of article.

 

Right, so Eccles v Wigton was called off with one part of the pitch rock hard, the two-storey clubhouse apparently obscuring the sun from the grass. I had a feeling, as Mrs L and I arrived 35 minutes before kick-off and there was hardly anyone around bar a few cars and two blokes chatting.

 

I walked through the changing rooms and didn’t see or hear anyone. Neither Eccles nor Wigton’s Twitter accounts said anything about a postponement, but a gentleman opening the bar shutters explained that the game had been called off at 8am and why.

 

Nuggets.

 

Interestingly, Eccles RFC is off Junction 11 on the M60, on the opposite side to the AJ Bell Stadium, and we had seen some Sale scarves on our drive up towards Gorton Street. A quick check of the BBC Sport app showed that Sale v Scarlets kicked off at 2pm, so we thought about going to that game instead.

 

I also had a fleeting wonder whether Broughton Park might be at home, but even if they were we probably wouldn’t have time to get there.

 

About to hit the junction again, a decision had to be made and we decided to head to the Trafford Centre instead, where hopefully I could find a bar to watch Italy v Ireland before we headed to my boy Ant’s gaff in Chorlton. Finally ending up in a bar at the back of an arcade (a licence to print money if ever I saw one), the last few minutes of Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal were on the TVs.

 

We eventually got the rugby on twenty minutes into the game, finding Ireland 0-6 up thanks to two penalties from Ian Keatley.

 

A quick check of Twitter at 3.05pm shows that the Falcons’ U18 team are 8-25 down in the second half against Leicester at KP. The first team game in Reading remains scoreless.

 

London Irish have just scored a penalty, but on the plus side, Dan Marshall has scored for the juniors, who are now losing 13-25 with 25 minutes left. Continuing on the Falcons theme, I’ve just seen wor Josh Furno on the big screen for the first time today.

 

In Rome, Keatley has knocked over a third penalty for Ireland but with 75 seconds left until the break, Italy have a lineout on five metres. It’s thrown high to Furno and the maul collapses, Furno is in a bit of a scrap with Ireland’s Tommy O’Donnell but not sure what the decision is…Paul O’Connell doesn’t look happy as one of his teammates gets treatment…it’s an Italian penalty and Kelly Haimona, with an interesting combination of beard, short hair and a string ponytail, steps up to reduce his team’s deficit to six points as the two teams head into the tunnel.

 

Another penalty has been knocked over in Berkshire, and the senior Falcons are 6-0 down.

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So, to recap, I’m sat here in a bar deep in the bowels of the Trafford Centre, just metres away from Pizza Hut, where I had my first non-paperboy job in England way back in 2001. I didn’t like it much – the buses to get here were unreliable so I used to have to leave mega-early, the last bus would often be full so I’d have to spend a tenner on a taxi home (not too terrible I suppose as I could easily make £30 a night just in tips) and a lot of the staff didn’t like students.

 

In my second year, I switched to Oxford Street in Manchester city centre and there continued a story that led to me being in Regents Park one day in 2011 and meeting the now-Mrs Leipy.

 

Not sure I’ve ever had a beer in the Traff before, I’ve probably only been here two or three times for purposes other than graft, but this Budweiser is going down nicely. The blasting music having been turned down after the football isn’t unwelcome too.

 

Hoo, wor Carlo del Fava on the telly there! Can’t hear what he’s saying as the sound’s off.

 

Back in Falconland, the U18s are right back in the game with a converted try from Aidan Coulthard. It’s 20-25 at KP with seven to go.

 

Some highlights of Wales v England coming on now, excellent! I’m not sure if Leigh Halfpenny slipped as he turned to chase Mike Brown’s dribble for Anthony Watson’s try, but if so, it was a very costly one! Jonathan Joseph did so well to fight through the tackles for his try, and then that monster penalty from George Ford at the end – I doubt he will forget that as long as he lives!

 

Woo, the Falcons youngsters have scored a try… 25-25 as the conversion lines up…aw, it’s missed and the game ends in a draw. Cracking effort by the U18s though to come back from 8-25 down. Even better, Tom Catterick has converted Will Welch’s try for the first team and they are 6-7 up at the Madejski!

 

It gets better, Alesana Tuilagi is over and its 6-14! I see the Exiles had a player in the bin, which probably helped us.

 

Right, Ireland and Italy are back out in Rome and the talisman Paul O’Connell and Sergio Parisse are shown one after another.

 

Six minutes into the second half, haven’t seen much happening so far, but 130 Italian tackles to 58 by Ireland tells a story, amazingly the visitors still haven’t scored a try. Ireland looking dangerous off the scrum, the backs are hammering away and the inside centre is nearly at the line, but Italy have stolen it and looking to run their way out of trouble…looking hairy until finally the ball is booted towards halfway.

 

It’s through the Irish backs that a score is going to come here I think – just as I say that, it’s a classic ten-man rugby score as the forwards win a scrum penalty and Keatley knocks it over. 3-12 Ireland.

 

The #mightyfalcons are 6-14 up at half-time, excellent! Nothing game but good practice for Exeter next week.

 

Things are heating (my spellchecker doesn’t recognise hotting :-S) in Rome as home hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini, now known forever to me as ‘Joe Marler with much less hair), is sent to the bin, presumably as a team yellow card as his offside was way out on the touchline. Ireland have now forced their way over for the opening try and it’s 3-19. The favourites have surely opened their campaign with a win as the game has less than fifteen minutes left, more than half of which Italy will play with fourteen men.

 

It was Conor Murray with the try I see, scurrying over. Just a minute later, the aforementioned O’Donnell left the Italian defence in his wake with a storming run through the middle to touch down the second Oirish try. The conversion is again good (you don’t get many misses at this level – as I said last night, it’s a step above what we Geordies watch every week). 3-26 to Ireland, and ‘Joe Marler with much less hair’ still has five minutes in the bin.

 

Just dropping this in for no reason whatsoever, other than that I’m writing about the Falcons and Ireland – did you know that Mike McCarthy’s wife was on Dragon’s Den the other night? My brother went to school with her, that’s the only reason I know this fact, or apparent fact. Don’t know if she got any money though.

 

The second half is underway in at the Mad Jetski stadium and Irish have missed a penalty, but from an overthrown home lineout Ally Hogg has scored our lads’ third try! 6-19 to the Geordies, could it be our…sixth try bonus point in a row?

 

Just looking at some stats, the Falcons have scored tries in EVERY game this season, which is a revelation compared to 2013/14. Today is our 23rd competitive game this season and we have only scored one try in four of them (Northampton, Gloucester and Sale at home and Harlequins away).

 

Back in Rome, Ghiraldini is back on but with just over five minutes to go, it remains 3-26 and Ireland have the game won. Italy are attacking, looking for a consolation try.

 

With seventy seconds left, it looks like they may have got it in the left corner. Parisse chased a high ball but looks like he completely missed it, so it’s not a knock-on in my opinion and Haimona touched down. Try, surely!

 

Oh no, it’s been given as a knock-on from Parisse’s fingernails! Poor Italy!

 

No such problems in Reading apparently, it’s Ally Hogg again (apparently again, young Smithy’s Twitter feed says there is confusion over who scored the third try) and the Falcons have a sixth successive bonus point! Catterick’s conversion makes it 6-26, coincidentally just as the Ireland-Italy match finishes 3-26.

 

Just waiting for the good lady to return from shopping and then we can head off to Chorlton. Attendance at the Majestic Stadium is announced as 4,764, and Smithy reckons there are fewer than that there. Probably about what I expected for a dead game. The Falcons seem to be putting in a canny performance, shame there are probably about a dozen of our fans there to see it.

 

In case anyone’s interested, Sale beat Scarlets 38-3, so though that might have been a good game (don’t know), it doesn’t seem to have been overly competitive.

 

One final try by Jamie Helleur and it’s a five-try, 13-31 win for the Falcons! Fantastic stuff to lead into the Premiership run-in.

 

Right, off for a night out in Chorlton now, lock up your dogs as we are taking Woody and Luna out with us!

 

See you for Exeter next week (if the BBC guys can get the commentary working!).

 

 

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

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