Saturday 25 April 2015 – 3.00pm
Aviva Premiership #20
Still gutted? Yes, me too, though I’ve mellowed a bit since 5pm last night. What a fantastic match, the Falcons gave absolutely everything and bar an amazing Gloucester comeback would have returned north with five points.
When I say gutted though, I don’t mean depressed and I certainly don’t mean angry. The team put in a great performance and it was only a few missed tackles and a couple of minutes of madness around 65 minutes that denied us a famous victory.
We’ve thought recently that the Falcons had a psychological barrier, making it difficult to close out games, and I think that’s true, b yesterday was strange because we recovered from the two quick tries with a quarter of an hour to go, and got another ourselves to get the try bonus point. The Falcons then defended so strongly in the dying seconds as Gloucester threw the sink at us before they finally found the smallest gap for the winning score.
Whatever caused the little switch-off and the missed tackles that led to conceding tries is for the coaches and players to work out, but I think we have to be proud of a huge effort. Better teams that us have been sent packing from Kingsholm with their tails between their legs this season but we went toe-to-toe with Gloucester in front of a Shed that finally found their voices late on, and we can take heart from that.
There is no reason now that we cannot beat Sale and Harlequins in the final two games and end the season on a high. I’m not saying that we definitely will beat them, but we can be hopeful.
One of the keys to our attacking quality yesterday was Juan Pablo Socino, who I thought had his best game since Wasps at home. Taking the ball a little deeper gave the little Argentine space to make runs and the creative passes we’ve seen set other players away in space. Combined with Rory Clegg showing more attacking ambition than he probably did earlier in the season, our backs had a good platform to work from.
It’s a shame that Chris Harris went off early as he could have really benefitted from Clegg and Socino’s partnership inside him, but Adam Powell was a lion in defence so no problems there.
In the forwards, Josh Furno played right on the edge of the law and could well have seen a yellow card on another day, but as it was his spoiling work slowed Gloucester time and again. Kieran Brookes defied the critics again with another big carrying game, and Scott Lawson was his usual busy self all around the pitch.
Nobody had a bad game really, although after the last few matches it seems the Falcons need to work out how to get the best out of Simon Hammersley, who hasn’t been quite the attacking force he was in September.
I think the defence also needs looked at generally. Our attack has been revolutionised this season, but the defence has not really improved on a year ago, and while that’s the case we will always struggle to win more games than we lose. To the naked, statistic-less eye, it seems to me that we concede fewer points than we opponents’ possession suggests we should, but we need to keep improving all areas of our game and in defence it’s not happening. Definitely something for the bosses to think about during the summer.
Obviously Gloucester deserve a lot of credit for their character in coming back from a big deficit, not every team has the heart to do that. I think what they also did well was adjusting their defence in the first half. Early on, they played a high line, possibly intent on denying Sinoti Sinoti and others the space to get up a good speed. However, we exploited this through clever passing that put Mark Wilson and Sinoti behind the defence for run-in tries.
Gloucester realised this was a problem and looked to stand a little further back when defending, and it gave us a little more to think about.
So, another game we could well have won but ended up losing. These things happen I suppose. “You keep saying that, aren’t you bored of it now?” you may ask. Well, not really, because I still believe we are on the right track, even if e journey is a lot slower than we’d all like. Even if I were getting sick of thinking long term, what’s the alternative? Moaning all the time about how we’re not winning games and suggesting we sack the manager and make wholesale changes to the squad, which is of course no guarantee of success.
Besides, Dean Richards has a new three-year contract so he’ll be in charge for next season at least, so we might as well get behind him.
It’s coming together. Let’s keep our heads up.
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