Sunday 8 March 2015 – 3.00pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Aviva Premiership #17
What undid the Falcons against Leicester today? Two things for me: a failure to score when we were well on top in the first twenty minutes of the second half – including those two lost lineouts in quick succession – and our team seeming to lose their heads in the final quarter of the game.
I’m not going to blame the officials, had the Falcons scored another try we’d have won anyway and we were certainly lucky to avoid a scrum yellow card, however you cannot report on this game without discussing Leicester’s try. A lot of people are convinced that Mathew Tait knocked on as he and brother Alex challenged for a high kick on our line, and the ball certainly went forward, but I couldn’t tell either live or on the screen.
What I thought at the time though, and still believe, is that once the two full-backs had come down to the ground again, referee Luke Pearce blew his whistle. Why I don’t know, it’s probably not important. But I’m convinced that Mr Pearce blew his whistle before Tommy Bell touched down.
So imagine my surprise that he then not only consults his TMO, but awards a try! A try that was scored when, I thought, the game had already been stopped!
If I am wrong about this, I will apologise. But at the moment, I believe what I saw and heard, and if I am right, then I expect the Falcons will be making a formal complaint over such a catastrophic refereeing failure.
Right, now that that’s out of the way, we can talk some more positive aspects of a great day out at Kingston Park. A crowd of over 9,000 – fantastic! Well done Falcons on that. A cracking atmosphere those 9,000 made too. The South Stand bar was rammed before kick-off, the truck in the south-east corner less so, fortunately. It’s the first time I’ve used that bar but hopefully it will become a permanent fixture at KP.
On the pitch, our lads were aggressive from the start and tore into Leicester, clearly looking to rattle the visitors on a blustery and chilly day in the North East. Chilly at ground level anyway, up in the back of the packed South Stand there was barely room for our breath, never mind the wind! For most of the first half, we had the Tiggers under the cosh and 12-6 was a very good half-time lead.
Sinoti Sinoti’s try was a peach, the work of a guy who is bubbling with confidence in his own ability. I’d like him to get his head down more often and go through players when it’s the better option, but you can’t deny that he is great at getting round players and knows how to finish. That said, Scott Lawson is in cracking form and certainly deserved his score too.
The scrum was a big worry before kick-off and we often did end up going backwards and conceding penalties, but I don’t think this was a contributory factor in losing as there weren’t really any scrums in the 22s that resulted in big moments. Perhaps that’s why we didn’t concede a team yellow card.
It is ironic that at the start of the season we were worried about the loosehead side, where Eric Fry has turned out to be a good find, but confident about the tighthead side, where we have lost two internationals, a future star and a competent Premiership player to injury. You just can’t legislate for that, but Alex Rogers gives it a good go and he had a good game in the loose today I thought.
Other than the winning try, what annoys me is that we lost two lineouts in the Tigers 22 in quick succession when we were very much on top early in the second half. The first was to the front and the second to the back, both were read by Leicester which means you can’t blame the hooker (though because it wasn’t Matt Thompson, nobody will anyway), and it just happens. Perhaps we needed to mix it up a bit more, I don’t know. I’m annoyed that it happened, more than annoyed at the players for it. Great opportunities wasted.
Then after the hour-mark, our heads seemed to go. Silly mistakes began creeping in, we didn’t seem to have the same intensity going forward, and Leicester made more headway into our half.
Maybe the players were tiring. Apart from Josh Furno for Kane Thompson at half-time, I don’t think we made any substitutions until the last few minutes (and Leicester threw the bench on far earlier), maybe that contributed, who knows? Leicester have minds of steel, so as long as they are in touch at sixty or seventy minutes, they still feel they can win and go for it, and they did. We’re improving, but we’re just not at that level yet.
Oh well, things are still going in the right direction. “But how long do we just ‘go in the right direction’, when do we get there?” you may ask. It’s only been five months since we were on a twenty-game losing run, and it’s less than a year since The Farce of Worcester, for heaven’s sake! These things take time. If we don’t win another game before the end of the season, I won’t consider 2014/15 a ‘success’, but it has already been a dramatic improvement on 2013/14, and there’s no reason we can’t improve again next year.
Now we have a three-week break before going to London Irish for their St Patrick’s Day Party, a must-win game really to put substance to the style of our improvement. Hopefully the Falcons will keep faith in what they are doing, keep attacking and scoring tries, and not neglect that in the search for the ability to consistently close out tight games.
That will come. I’m sure of it. Onwards we go!
Today’s Eddie Stobarts on the drive over from Cumbrialand this morning:
Lakota Skye (not the first time I’ve seen this one I think, it’s a bit memorable!)
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