Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 37-21 Harlequins

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Saturday 16 May 2015 – 3.30pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #22

 

Look at the scoreline. Just beautiful, is it not? It’s taken a season of entertainment, frustration, gutting in Gloucester, excruciating in Exeter, more excruciating in Exeter, ecstasy at home to Exeter. Finally, a bit of madness in May when the Falcons scored five tries and got five points against Harlequins.

 

It was fully deserved. The Falcons were much the better team yesterday, and took apart a decent team for the first time in probably a couple of years. Was it our most dominant Premiership performance since the equivalent game in March 2011?

 

I’m certainly struggling to think of another one.

 

Everything just seemed to work yesterday. Even the tries we conceded involved individual errors, rather than problems in the system. Our attack was a joy to watch, from the rolling mauls that forced Richard Mayhew and Scott Lawson overs the line, to Mike Blair and Adam Powell’s breaks. Tom Catterick and JP Socino provided a great creative axis in midfield, Alesana Tuilagi was at his steamrolling best, and the forwards laid the foundation with a dominant performance in the set piece.

 

The only disappointments in attack from my point of view were Zach Kibirige never really getting chance to run at Quins during his welcome appearance from the bench, and Kieran Brookes not making it to the line when he made that fantastic break in the first half. Let’s not have any criticism of his ambitious offload, Brookes deserves credit for being in the position to do it in the first place.

 

It was good that we had a big crowd to see yesterday’s big performance, I would hope that it has swayed a few season ticket waverers. There was a real happy atmosphere around the ground I felt, and it’s not always been that way even this season. It’s always better to have a valiant defeat than losing a damp squib, but when you finally add a win to the big effort and the entertainment, you get a lively atmosphere that people will want to be a part of.

 

The challenge now is to replicate what we saw yesterday on a more consistent basis in 2015/16, and we will have the advantage of a long pre-season and plenty of games (Georgia and four in the Kings of the North) to do so. That performance and win has been coming, and now we’ve seen it, we need to do it more often so climb up the table next season. Of course we won’t score five tries in every win, but we should take great confidence that we can take on good sides and beat them well, so we can certainly beat them narrowly too. Turning just a few of the bonus-point defeats into wins will make a huge difference.

 

I’m excited now for the future in a way I probably haven’t been for a lot of years, because this season we have seen consistent efforts for growth and improvement. It’s slow, and there will be setbacks, but we’re really getting there.

 

Thanks for reading this season, I’ll be knocking around over the close season still sometimes, but until the sevens in August, have a great summer!

 

This weekend’s Eddie Stobarts:

Kayla

Heidi Valerie

 

 

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

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Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Harlequins

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Saturday 16 May 2015 – 3.30pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #22

 

I wouldn’t say it feels like just yesterday that we were rocking up to Darlington for the Sevens back in early August, but nine and a half months have passed quite quickly. In some ways we are where we were twelve months ago – 11th in the league and, barring victory over Harlequins tomorrow, a long losing league run to take into this longest of close seasons.

 

The Falcons have lost seven and drawn one in the Premiership since beating London Welsh in January, that being our only league win since November. There would be no better time to get a morale-boosting win than tomorrow. This season has been so much more enjoyable than 2013/14 was, and the Falcons have been far more competitive in most games, but that holy grail of turning performances into wins continues to elude us.

 

In 2014, we threatened to win at the Stoop twice, but both times Harlequins held on for victories. Most recently, in December, Alesana Tuilagi scored the only try of the game on half-time, but five Tim Swiel penalties gave the Londoners the win and denied the Falcons even a bonus point. To put that 15-7 result into context though, in the Premiership only Saracens and Sale have conceded fewer points at the Stoop this season.

 

Going further back to the last time Quins came north, a Newcastle side devoid of spirit were crushed 9-35 in front of the BT Sport cameras. Tom Williams, Sam Smith (two) and Danny Care secured a bonus point for clinical Quins, while all we could manage were three Phil Godman penalties in the first half. For the majority of the 6,017 in attendance, it wasn’t pretty.

 

However, we have had some big meetings with Conor O’Shea’s side over the years. Who could forget the night of violence at KP in March 2012, when the relegation-threatened Falcons so rattled title-chasing Quins that O’Shea was seen remonstrating with the referee on the pitch at half-time? Chris Pilgrim and Rob Vickers saw yellow, and Taiasina Tu’ifua was cited for a particularly brash display. Rumours that O’Shea checked under the bed for Tai and James Fitzpatrick before he went to sleep that night were never confirmed.

 

The match ended controversially with Nick Evans kicking a touchline penalty from a scrum to sneak a 9-9 draw.

 

A year earlier came our last victory over Harlequins, a routine-looking 33-18 win to ease relegation worries. Alex Gray, Luke Fielden and Micky Young were the Falcons’ try-scorers, while Jimmy Gopperth added eighteen points with the boot. Rory clegg kicked eight points for Harlequins.

 

After several seasons in the top four, and a title win in 2012, Harlequins have had a disappointing season. Early promise was dashed as Wasps snuck into the Champions Cup quarter-finals ahead of their London rivals, and now that they are likely to finish either eighth or ninth in the table, it will be Challenge Cup opposition flying in to the Stoop from the continent next season.

 

Any hopes of sneaking into the top six were dashed a week ago when Bath snuck a 26-27 victory in TW2. Ugo Monye and a penalty try had put Quins ahead at half-time, before the retiring winger completed a brace on his final appearance at the Stoop. However, Francois Louw, Horacio Agulla and Leroy Houston had kept the Bathplugs in touch and a late George Ford penalty sealed the visitors’ playoff place.

 

It was the Londoners’ fifth home defeat in the Premiership this season, however there have been problems away too. Harlequins have only come away from Sale, London Welsh (13-24, the Exiles’ narrowest Premiership loss of the season) and Gloucester with victories, as well as defeating London Irish at Twickenham in the opening day Double Header, and this is something they will need to rectify if they are going to return to the top four next season.

 

Castres and Leinster were both downed at the Stoop in Europe, but Wasps’ 3-23 away victory in round five all-but sealed Quins’ fate in pool 2, as their arch-rivals and the Irishmen progressed to the last eight.

 

Harlequins have been visiting us for over sixty years now, and in the mid-50s a trip to play Gosforth was reported in the media as the first time an English club side had flown to a fixture.

 

Falcons v Quins:

11/09/1954     County Ground        Club Match                 L9-35

03/09/1955     County Ground        Club Match                 L5-18

01/09/1956     North Road                 Club Match                 L0-9

09/09/1963     North Road                 Club Match                 W5-3

24/02/1979     North Road                 Cup R2                       W9-3

14/11/1987     North Road                 Club Match                 L4-33

02/10/1993     Kingston Park             Division 1                  L3-22

10/02/1996     Kingston Park             Cup R5                       L22-44

15/02/1998     Kingston Park             Premiership 1          W43-15

11/05/1999     Kingston Park             Premiership 1          W33-23

05/12/1999     Kingston Park             Premiership 1          L15-16

06/03/2001     Kingston Park             Premiership            L22-24

16/09/2001     Kingston Park             Premiership              D6-6

01/02/2003     Kingston Park             Premiership              W32-17

04/01/2004     Kingston Park             Premiership              L25-29

19/09/2004     Kingston Park             Premiership              W22-21

10/11/2006     Kingston Park             Premiership              L3-14

02/12/2006     Kingston Park             Cup                            W21-18

29/09/2007     Kingston Park             Premiership              W19-12

15/03/2009     Kingston Park             Premiership              W24-16

25/09/2009     Kingston Park             Premiership             D17-17

15/11/2009     Kingston Park             Cup                               L8-19

04/03/2011     Kingston Park             Premiership              W33-18

02/03/2012     Kingston Park             Premiership              D9-9

01/12/2013     Kingston Park             Premiership              L9-35

 

With Sinoti Sinoti out after sustaining a head injury last week, Alesana Tuilagi starts for the first time in two months. Tom Catterick and captain Mike Blair replace Rory Clegg and Ruki Tipuna in the half-back shirts, and Eric Fry, Scott MacLeod and Richard Mayhew come into the pack along with Uili ‘Big Willy Style’ Kolo’ofai, who will be looking to complete a game in a Falcons shirt for the first time. Kieran Brookes starts on the final game of his second spell at KP, and Zach Kibirige will surely get a big cheer if he comes off the bench following a year out with injury.

 

Falcons team: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 AlexTait, 13 AdamPowell, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tom Catterick, 9 Mike Blair (c), 1 Eric Fry, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Calum Green, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Mark Wilson, 8 Uili Kolo’ofai.

 

Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Rob Vickers, 18 Alex Rogers, 19 Will Witty, 20 Andy Saull, 21 Ruki Tipuna, 22 Anitelea Tuilagi, 23 Zach Kibirige.

 

 

Harlequins team, slightly stronger than some had expected: 15 Ollie Lindsay-Hague, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Harry Sloan, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care (c), 1 Darryl Marfo, 2 Dave Ward, 3 Matt Shields, 4 George Merrick, 5 Charlie Matthews, 6 James Chisholm, 7 Jack Clifford, 8 Netani Talei.

 

Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Rob Buchanan, 18 Seb Adeniran-Olule, 19 Sam Twomey, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Tom Williams.

 

 

Last chance for a win heading into the summer, lets get a big crowd into KP (no, I haven’t got my ticket yet since you’re asking!) and cheer the team on to an important mood-bopping victory!

 

 

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

Match reaction: Harlequins 15-7 Newcastle Falcons

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Saturday 20 December 2014 – 3.00pm

Twickenham Stoop, London

Aviva Premiership #10

 

Aargh! Now that really was one that got away. The Falcons dominated the first half and but for handling errors, a lapse in judgement by Calum Green to give away a penalty, and dogged Harlequina defence we’d have had a bonus point secured before the break.

 

As it was, we had a slim 3-7 lead at half-time through a controversial try by Alex Tuilagi, and then in the second forty our discipline went to pot, allowing Tim Sweil to score four penalties and deny us a losing bonus point. Very frustrating, as players and manager readily admitted afterwards.

 

These things happen when you are an up and coming team, you play well and it just doesn’t go for you. No need to panic, we created lots of opportunities and Quins wouldn’t have scored a try had we played until Christmas.

 

I used to believe that you win first and the performances will come, now I’m of the opposite mindset – attack well and defend well, and the wins will come. Yesterday we did both, but lacked the final ball. A bit better execution and we’d have got four points rather than none.

 

So we can definitely be very positive, we are getting closer to winning at places like Harlequins and Bath. I’m not going to say we were unlucky, because the game is about scoring points and if you don’t take chances then you don’t deserve to win, and the execution meeds working on.

 

But we are not far away and I think we will beat a top team at least once this season.

 

We have still, in my opinion, been outclassed for eighty minutes by only one team this season and that was Northampton in the LV= Cup. Who’d have expected that a year ago or even in the summer?

 

Some outstanding performances yesterday, particularly Sinoti and Tuilagi who were a menace on the wings, Adam Powell was involved a lot in the centre, and all of the front row put in good shifts driving forwards. Noah Cato was also dangerous in attack after replacing Simon Hammersley.

 

So lots to be happy about.

 

Just to finish on a negative note, unfortunately I believe I saw a Falcons player dive while chasing a kick yesterday, quite theatrically and the referee rightly didn’t give a penalty. It’s only the second time I’ve ever seen it happen, and the first time for a couple of years, but please, let’s not be doing things like that. Hopefully Dean Richards has the same attitude and took the relevant player to task.

 

Actually, I’ll finish positively – Merry Christmas everyone, and see you on the 27th!

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

Match preview: Harlequins v Newcastle Falcons

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Saturday 20 December 2014 – 3.00pm

Twickenham Stoop, London

Aviva Premiership #10

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or the most stressful time depending on how you look at it. Or maybe it’s both. But before we get to Saracens at home, we have to visit their fellow Cockneys Harlequins down at tomorrow.

 

After a tricky and inconsistent start to 2014/15, Quins are currently ninth in the table with nineteen points, one place and five points ahead of ourselves, so while this game is a big test for the Falcons, it also represents a good opportunity to get a fantastic result and announce ourselves as truly back in the Premiership.

 

Harlequins come into this match after a huge Champions Cup double-header against Leinster, the first meetings between the two sides since the infamous Bloodgate incident that ultimately resulted in Dean Richards taking charge at Kingston Park. Quins beat the Dublin side 24-18 at before an incredibly tight 14-13 loss at the Stadium last Saturday, a game in which they came back from 11-0 down to lead at one stage.

 

The aristocratic Londoners remain in a great position to qualify for the new competition’s quarter-finals however, having also beaten Castres at home and Wasps away already.

 

Quins’ inconsistency is reflected in their home form so far this season. Conor O’Shea’s side were destroyed 0-39 by Saracens in their opening Stoop outing of the season, before beating Wasps, London Welsh and Castres as well as Newport Gwent Dragons in the LV= Cup. Their last home league game was a 12-16 loss to Sale at the same time as the Falcons were beating Gloucester at KP.

 

Our hosts’ most recent league game saw them as the supporting cast for the Sam Burgess Show at The Rec last month, when Bath took Quins apart in the scrum in particular and ran out 25-6 winners. That game should give our forwards encouragement tomorrow.

 

That said, Quins did win away to Gloucester last month, so there can be no complacency tomorrow against a side packed with quality young and experienced players.

 

More optimism can be garnered from our last visit to TW2. That game was in February this year, and Rory Clegg played a blinder against his former club to almost lead us to a famous win after Alex Tait’s second-half try. However, two penalties by Ben Botica in the last ten minutes broke Geordie hearts and left us with only a bonus point to take back north.

 

Our last win at the Stoop was arguably Alan Tait’s finest hour as Falcons manager, Tane Tu’ipulotu’s last-play try in front of the away fans winning the 2011 LV= Cup semi-final. I can still remember that night – another ecstatic Geordie jumped on my back in the bar afterwards and almost broke my glasses, so I decided I needed contact lenses.

 

Other than that, we haven’t won away to Harlequins since 2000, but it is unlikely we will ever get a more famous victory on Langhorn Drive than that which took place on 17 May 1998. With Saracens’ season over and Francois Pienaar’s side holding a one-point lead at the top of the table, all the Falcons had to do was defeat Quins to win the Premiership 1 title in our first season back in the big time (only our second top division season ever).

 

Unbelievably, there was no real tension that day. Two tries from Gary Armstrong and further scores from Rob Andrew, Nick Popplewell, Pat Lam and Richard Arnold saw our lads romp to a 20-44 victory and the league championship. Just looking at the teams that day, I see that the Harlequins tighthead was a guy by the name of Alan Yates – two years later he would have a forty-minute career at Kingston Park, being hauled off at half-time in a huge home defeat to Wasps and never to be seen again in our parish.

 

Falcons at the Stoop:

08/03/1980 Cup QF                       L3-9

24/01/1983 Cup R3                       L15-24

08/11/1986 Club Match                L3-9

05/03/1989 Club Match                L14-26

02/03/1991 Club Match                W18-17

12/02/1994 Division 1                   L6-12

17/05/1998 Premiership 1           W44-20

07/11/1998 Premiership 1           L20-25

22/01/2000 Premiership 1           W15-12

30/09/2000 Premiership               W20-18

16/03/2002 Premiership               L19-33

05/10/2002 Premiership               L23-47

11/10/2003 Premiership               L11-18

13/03/2004 Premiership               L23-39

01/01/2007 Premiership               L15-42

29/03/2008 Premiership               L9-15

25/04/2009 Premiership               L12-31

03/04/2010 Premiership               L14-23

02/10/2010 Premiership               L12-23

14/11/2010 Cup                             L20-28

11/03/2011 Cup SF                        W21-20

27/11/2011 Premiership               L8-39

15/02/2014 Premiership               L14-18

 

Tom Catterick starts a Premiership match at fly-half for the first time tomorrow, while Andy Tuilagi could make his debut from the bench. A host of stars return after the European games in Sinoti Sinoti, Alex Tuilagi, Mike Blair and Ally Hogg, with Scott Lawson and Josh Furno on the bench.

Falcons team: 15. Simon Hammersley, 14. Sinoti Sinoti, 13. Adam Powell, 12. Juan Pablo Socino, 11. Alex Tuilagi, 10. Tom Catterick, 9. Mike Blair; 1. Rob Vickers, 2. George McGuigan, 3. Scott Wilson, 4. Calum Green, 5. Dom Barrow, 6. Mark Wilson, 7. Will Welch (c), 8. Ally Hogg.

Replacements: 16. Scott Lawson, 17. Eric Fry, 18. Mark Irving, 19. Kane Thompson, 20. Josh Furno, 21. Ruki Tipuna, 22. Andy Tuilagi, 23. Noah Cato.

 

Harlequins team: 15. Mike Brown, 14. Marland Yarde, 13. Matt Hopper, 12. George Lowe, 11. Aseli Tikoirotuma, 10. Tim Swiel, 9. Karl Dickson, 1.Mark Lambert, 2. Joe Gray, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Charlie Matthews, 5. George Robson (c), 6. Joe Trayfoot, 7. Jack Clifford, 8. James Chisholm

Replacements: 16. Dave Ward, 17.Darryl Marfo, 18. Will Collier, 19. Sam Twomey, 20. George Merrick, 21. Danny Care, 22. Ross Chisholm, 23. Ugo Monye.

 

Come on lads, lets get an early Christmas present and really go into the Saracens game with massive confidence!

 

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

Bath 25-6 Harlequins

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I took the rare step of watching some club rugby on the telly last night. Mrs wanted to go to the pub, so I suggested we go for a quick pint and then get back for the second half for when Sam Burgess would hopefully get on, but after tea we decided just to stay in and so I stuck BT Sport on with a can of lager in hand.

 

Classy.

 

The first half an hour would have been difficult viewing for Harlequins fans. Bath had their scrum on toast, winning penalty after penalty, while fast play and patient build-up (I think they go together) allowed the home team to score two good tries as Matt Bananaman and Kyle Eastmond found gaps from close range.

 

For Bath though, obviously, it was a lot of fun. Horacio Agulla and Jonathan Joseph ran Quins ragged outside, and in the forwards Ross Batty was a real driving force.

 

Things settled down after the half-hour mark and Harlequins had a good chance to pull back from 13-3 down when Dave Ward set up Charlie Walker, but the winger was tackled into touch.

 

Speaking of Harlequins wingers, I was disappointed that Ollie Lindsay-Hague wasn’t playing – a product of two of the great British families (probably), you just look at his name and know he plays for Harlequins. Really, really good player as well. I still remember that dummy he threw to completely bamboozle our defence at KP in 2011.

 

Anyway back to the game. So Bath went into half-time 13-3 up and in control, maybe a little disappointed not to have a bigger lead. I’m sure Harlequins didn’t feel great, knowing that Bath still had Irish legend Peter Stringer, in-form Olly Woodburn and of course Burgess to throw at them in the second half.

 

Quite an enjoyable first half then.

 

Harlequins were almost back in the game less than a minute into the second half, Nick Easter making a great run through a gap and going one-on-one with Agulla, but the former England man dallied rather than driving on and was tackled. Harlequins were granted a penalty but the three points really could have been more.

 

Bath took control again, and though a threat from Wayne Barnes to Easter Harlequins honest at the next scrum, the inevitable finally happened. Though the next scrum penalty was deep in Bath’s half, Barnes lost patience and sent Kyle Sinckler to the bin. It wasn’t a surprise for me, Sinckler was thoroughly outdone by Nick Auterac. In fact, I was surprised that Quins took Mark Lambert off near the end of the first half, apparently tactically, rather than the tighthead.

 

George Robson soon followed for a ten-minute breather and you had to feel that it was only a matter of time until Bath scored a third try. Two more simple scrum penalties, and replacement prop Will Collier was sent off, so we went to uncontested scrums… Stuart Hooper quite legitimately pointed to Lambert but Quins insisted he is a loosehead; I’m sure he used to be a tighthead.

 

Still no penalty try, however.

 

Then it was time for the man everyone had come to see to enter the fray: Sam Burgess. But the more things change, the more they stay the same… Danny Care contrived to concede a penalty even from an uncontested scrum, but still Barnes didn’t go under the posts. But Batty touched down from a lineout maul for a try thoroughly deserved by Bath after twenty minutes of complete dominance.

 

The condemned men were returned onto the field for Bath over the course of the next ten minutes and, despite being robbed of thirty minutes of player minutes, Harlequins had conceded only five points. A big effort from Conor O’Shea’s Cockneys, credit where credit’s due.

 

Ironically, as soon as it was 15v15 again, Leroy Houston got the bonus-point try to put Bath out of sight at 25-6 with six minutes left.

 

There was just enough time left for former Newcastle man Batty to be named man of the match for a storming performance and, with 79 minutes on the clock, the irony continued as Harlequins won a penalty at a scrum!

 

Bath ran out 25-6 winners to top the Premiership tonight, though Northampton will surely overtake them on Sunday at the Kassam Stadium and Exeter host Saracens tomorrow. It was a big game from the Bathplugs, who are looking very strong this season, and it reflects well on the Falcons that we competed a lot better at the Rec the other week than Quins did tonight.

 

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Sam the Man much, indeed at all after he came on, and that’s because I didn’t see him very much bar a couple of carries and one big ruck. No biggie though, after all the hype Burgess was likely to fall short of the stratospheric expectations in his first game of union after just four weeks in Bath.

 

Really good game tonight, and Bath look like they will take some stopping in the league this year.

 

 

The rugby fun isn’t stopping for me at least this weekend. Tomorrow is the big derby at Kendal v Kirkby Lonsdale, before the main event on Sunday – the mighty Falcons v Sale. Having to watch on the computer again apparently, but at least I’ll see it. I like having a lot of rugby on TV these days, even if I don’t watch much of it!

 

 

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

Match reaction: Harlequins 18-14 Newcastle Falcons

Saturday 15 February 2014 – 3.00pm
The Twickenham Stoop, London
Aviva Premiership #14

Agonising! That’s what it was. The Falcons may have lost an eighth league game in a row yesterday but they put in a fantastic performance to so nearly win at Harlequins.

In the end, a bonus point restores the advantage over Worcester at the bottom of the table to eleven points with two more games down, but it could have been more.

There was passion, there was courage, there was intelligence, there was speed, all that was lacking was clinical finishing.

It was a performance to be proud of that gives us hope for the rest of the season. The best show in the Premiership for a long time.

Our team went out there and were not content to just sit back and wait for the inevitable, they stood up and took on Harlequins with the aim of showing we can compete in the Premiership.

For a lot of the second half we were in control, I don’t know if Quins slacked off or we picked up, but Alex Tait’s try was fully deserved when it came and while it cranked up the noise from the away fans another notch, the home crowd seemed stunned.

Overall there was a flat atmosphere at the Stoop I felt. Maybe the Quins fans expected a simple five-pointer and when their internationally-depleted side made heavy work of things, they got disgruntled.

If we’d got more points when we were on top, it could have been different. If Rory Clegg had kicked the points he missed (though Ben Botica also missed a couple in the strong wind) then it might have been different.

This was a defeat and that’s not good, four points and a first league win for over four months would have been very welcome. But we got one point and better teams than us will still get thumped by Quins this season.

Lets go out next week and take Northampton on, put them under pressure and make sure they know they’ve been in a game. Last week at the Rec we didn’t do that. Yesterday at the Stoop, we did. The results speak for themselves.

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

Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 9-35 Harlequins

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Sunday 1 December 2013 – 2.30pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #9

 

Looking at the message board, it seems like today’s game was not all bad. I guess you can see more on TV. But at Kingston Park, the general opinion seemed to be that the Falcons were, to put it mildly, pretty poor today.

 

That was certainly my view. Harlequins’ forwards were strong in the scrum and quicker in the breakdown, and once our normal areas of strength were neutralised, we had absolutely no alternative. The backs had no imagination, struggled to put together what looked to be relatively simple plays.

 

The first half was pretty flat, and there was a derisory atmosphere around the ground. Maybe Harlequins were surprised at how easy it was for them, since our players just didn’t really turn up and made a lot of silly errors. I felt the visitors had another couple of gears in them, and after the break they turned up the heat and got their bonus point.

 

I don’t want to turn this into another backs-bashing exercise – indeed, I actually thought Phil Godman didn’t have a bad game today. He got most of the basics right, which has not been the case in every game this season, and kicked well enough. Unfortunately, the whole plan just seemed so predictable. In the first half, we kicked the ball away too much with little idea of why, and in the second half we didn’t have enough possession to employ this tactic.

 

The 6,000+ crowd were pretty quiet. When Quins got their bonus point try with 12 minutes left, I can’t imagine a single person in KP would have complained had the referee blown for full-time right then. I myself would have made the 17.10 to Carlisle, but as it was the 18.02 was the East Coast Skyfall train on diversion on the way to Glasgow, so that was a bit cool.

 

Positives? As I said I thought Godman had a decent game, Richard Mayhew and Fraser McKenzie got through a lot of work and Noah Cato didn’t do anything wrong. Some good individual shows, but as a team it just didn’t happen. Why? Who knows. One fan beside me reckoned that the team just aren’t practicing backs moves, and it’s hard not to have some sympathy with that viewpoint when passes go into touch or empty spaces.

 

Then again, the moves we do come up with are predictable and there is not a lot of invention or trickery. Just side-to-side and defences in the Premiership find them easy to cope with. Heck, by the end of last season we were starting to struggle to score tries against Championship teams.

 

As I said after Northampton last week, I think something has to change. Not the management, they have massive experience and Dean Richards and John Wells have topped the table before, but we try the same things again and again and it’s not working.

 

Worcester don’t look like winning a game any time soon so we are probably not going to go down again, but Richards says he is looking upwards anyway. That’s the right thing to do. However, the way we have been playing in recent away games and yesterday, we won’t be troubling the top six any time soon.

 

 

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