Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Nottingham Rugby

Robin Hood

Friday 5 April 2013 – 8.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

British & Irish Cup Quarter-final


The British & Irish Cup knockout stages begin tomorrow night and the Falcons face the third of what could be five meetings with Nottingham this season.


The Archers are our closest challengers in the Championship and will no doubt fancy their chances of reaching the playoff final.


This quarter-final comes just two weeks after we visited Meadow Lane and completed a regular season league double over Nottingham. That certainly was not easy, the Outlaws scoring two tries to cancel out Tom Catterick’s opener before Jimmy Gopperth and Joel Hodgson’s boot stole an away win.


In between times, Nottingham visited Doncaster on Good Friday as we were entertaining Jersey, and secured their place in the top four with a hard-fought 21-27 victory. Andy Savage and Alex Forsyth were the Midlanders’ try-scorers.


Nottingham qualified from their B&I Cup pool with despite opening with two defeats, away to Llandovery and at home to Doncaster. However they recovered to hammer Melrose 54-24 at home in December before a 20-32 return win in the Borders.


Following the turn of the year, Nottingham got their first victory at Castle Park this year, shading a tight game 14-16, and then sent Llandovery home from Meadow Lane with nothing to top Pool 8.


Both the Archers and their Welsh opponents finished on 20 points but Nottingham went through due to a better record in the games between the two sides.


This year’s B&I Cup is the fourth installment of this much-criticised and, to many, poorly-organised competition and Nottingham have played in all three previous years.


Last season, four wins out of four (against teams in another pool, as in the Anglo-Welsh Cup) saw Nottingham finish second in their group and lose 33-3 to Cornish Pirates in the last eight.


In 2010/11, Nottingham finished fourth in a six-team pool as wins at Bristol and Esher were cancelled out by defeats at home to Munster A, Melrose and at Llanelli.


A similar format had been adopted in the B&I Cup’s first season 2009/10, and though Nottingham finished third in pool B this was not enough to make the final stages. Following a 0-5 win at Heriot’s FP and a home victory over Neath, losses at Munster A and at home to Bristol around a thrashing of Coventry at Meadow Lane led to the Midlanders exiting at the pool round.


Writing before the team has been named, I will be interested to see the side Dean Richards puts out this week after making several changes for Jersey, given that this is a cup game but one we’ll want to win for many reasons, including the obvious one that it’s a game to be won.



Well, some big guns are back in the shape of Jimmy Gopperth, Jamie Helleur, Jonny Golding, Ally Hogg and Scott MacLeod, and the very big gun of Taiasina Tu’ifua who is no longer suspended. James Hall gets a rare start and in Will Welch’s absence, Hogg is captain. Scott Wilson and Alex Tait are on the bench.


Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 James Hall, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Taiasina Tu’ifua, 7 Mark Wilson, 8 Ally Hogg (c).


Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 Scott Wilson, 18 Richard Mayhew, 19 Ollie Stedman, 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Alex Tait



Nottingham are missing their own captain Brent Wilson, who won’t be making a second return to KP this season:


Nottingham: 15 James Stokes, 14 Jack Bradford, 13 Joe Cobden, 12 Andy Forsyth, 11 Ryan Hough, 10 Rory Lynn, 9 Finlay Barnham, 1 Jonny Harris, 2 Shaun Malton, 3 Ryan Bower, 4 Joe Quinn, 5 Tom Price, 6 Phil Eggleshaw, 7 Tom Calladine, 8 Alex Shaw.


Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 Matt Parr, 18 Matt Shields, 19 Dan Montagu, 20 Rupert Cooper, 21 Sean Romans, 22 Joe Munro.



What happens in the semi-finals and final of the B&I Cup is anyone’s guess, the way the rules have been chopped and changed so far. But lets just get there and let the unions worry about that.



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


Match reaction: Nottingham 12-14 Newcastle Falcons


Friday 22 March 2013 – 7.45pm
Meadow Lane, Nottingham
RFU Championship #19

I picked up a cheap pair of headphones at the Spar opposite Kings Cross yesterday afternoon, normally £10 (so the bloke said) but I paid what my brother would call a deep sea.

On the train fron St Pancras to Nottingham I put them in and heard the Top Gun anthem in quality I’ve never known before. Impressive for £5. Amazingly, the next song my phone put on was Local Hero.

I turned the volume up loud, picked up my can of Brown Ale and closed my eyes. For the next few minutes I felt like the only person on Earth.

I began thinking about Newcastle and it suddenly hit me that I might never live properly in my home city again. Eep.

Still, at least next year we’ll hopefully have a Premiership rugby team to watch again, last night’s squozen win at Nottingham keeping up our unbeaten record in the Championship.

It was a game of two halves, as most are obviously, but this was figuratively too. In the first 40 the Falcons were very sloppy against a fired-up home side and deservedly went into the break trailing.

But after half-time Nottingham were barely in our half, and three penalties sneaked the Falcons a 12-14 victory.

As I write this I’m on a train hurtling through the Midlands and through the window I can see probably an inch of snow. Last night’s promised apocalyptic covering never materialised on the banks of the River Trent.

I’m not one to blame the weather for a poor performance, but I think both teams deserve credit for putting on what, for me anyway, was quite an enjoyable game through almost-relentless snow and a strong swirling wind.

I hated every step walking through it to the hotel in the afternoon, it can’t have been a lot of fun to play in.

The Falcons often tried to play through the backs but it just wasn’t working. Jimmy Gopperth had a distinctly off-day and it was no surprise that he was replaced by Joel Hodgson late on.

I think for next season, and perhaps this too as you never know what might happen, it’s good for the team to beat a good opponent without our star player and for Richards to show he has confidence that we can do that.

The big psychological result from last night though must surely be like after Bedford – Nottingham played well first half and defended well second half, but it still wasn’t enough. Come the last few minutes of a tight playoff, who can keep their head and their confidence could be the difference.

Meadow Lane is an interesting ground, a mix of the new football stadia you see and some nice features like a proper bar room under the stand and a raised sign on one side stand roof, like many old footy grounds had.

All things considered though it’s a shame Nottingham couldn’t have stayed at their old ground or sorted a new proper rugby facility.

Another cracking night out with some other members of the Falcons family last night, no doubt some are paying for it this morning but we have until Monday to recover.

We’ve been everywhere in the Championship now except Plymouth, looking forward to that one now after a couple more home games.

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

Match preview: Nottingham v Newcastle Falcons


Friday 22 March 2013 – 7.45pm

Meadow Lane, Nottingham

RFU Championship #19


Yet again, it’s 1st v 2nd in the Championship tomorrow night with the Falcons taking on closest-challengers Nottingham, who will be looking to cement their position going into the play-offs by being the first team to beat us in competitive action this season.


This game, which like our previous against Bedford could be a rehearsal for the play-off final, sees the Falcons visit Meadow Lane, home of Notts County FC, for the first time. It is an all-seater ground with a capacity of just over 22,000, though since it was one of the early Taylor-compliant stadiums the facilities may be more Vicarage Road than Wembley. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to seeing another new ground.


Nottingham initially played on and off at Meadow Lane in 2006 before moving there permanently later in that year. They had previously played at Ireland Avenue for over a century and hosted Gosforth there as far back as 1958.


Our club had quite a good record at Ireland Avenue, winning 11 of 20 visits including a cup quarter-final back in 1981, and drawing two more. We are unbeaten in competitive visits to Nottingham.


The last time we visited Nottingham, now captained by former Falcons stalwart Brent Wilson, was back at the start of our 1996/97 promotion season. The team that day included Phil Belgian and Ross Wilkinson, who were soon to be edged out by star names, while Garath Archer made his first appearance in his second of three spells on Tyneside.


Gary Armstrong scored four tries, and was joined on the scoresheet by Wilkinson and Archer, as well as Andy Blyth, Graham Childs, Tony Underwood, Rob Andrew, Doddie Weir and Ross Nesdale. Andrew converted seven of the 12 tries, but later expressed concern at his team conceding 29 points to the Midlanders.


Falcons in Nottingham:

22/03/1958      Club Match                 W17-5

05/11/1960      Club Match                 W6-3

03/11/1962      Club Match                 W11-3

07/11/1964      Club Match                 L8-14

15/04/1967      Club Match                 W11-6

19/04/1969      Club Match                 L9-13

19/12/1970      Club Match                 W14-3

03/02/1973      Club Match                 L3-44

21/12/1974      Club Match                 D16-16

18/12/1976      Club Match                 W7-3

16/12/1978      Club Match                 W15-10

28/03/1981      Cup QF                       W23-3

17/12/1983      Club Match                 L6-23

21/12/1985      Club Match                 L9-23

04/10/1986      Club Match                 L9-39

18/02/1989      Club Match                 L13-25

02/02/1991      Club Match                 W16-11

08/04/1995      Division 2                   W33-18

13/01/1996      Division 2                   D24-24

14/09/1997      Division 2                   W74-29



Nottingham have obviously had an excellent season under director of rugby Martin Haag and with four games left have a six-point advantage over third-placed Bedford in the league table. They need only six more points at this stage to secure a play-off place but with even Leeds in fourth 12 points behind it is hard to imagine Nottingham dropping out of the top three, never mind the top four.


In their most recent fixture, in Jersey last Saturday, Nottingham were victorious 13-20, following up a good victory at Bristol eight days earlier. A defeat at London Scottish last month was Notts’ only loss in their last 11 games in all competitions so they go into tomorrow night with some form behind them. Only Rotherham have left Meadow Lane with a victory in the Championship this season and that was back in September, although Doncaster did win there in the B&I Cup a month later.


Our meeting with the outlaws at KP back in November saw the Falcons labour to a 29-9 win, Luke Fielden securing a bonus point late on. My main memory of listening to that game on BBC Newcastle was a lengthy period of scrums that eventually led to a yellow card for Nottingham and a penalty try for us, but Mark Laycock (who was alongside Big Smithy) made a good point that collapsed scrums had just wasted five minutes in which those at the game could have watched some rugby.

Dean Richards has named quite a strong team for tomorrow night with Adam Powell making a debut following the end of his loan spell at Saracens. Noah Cato gets a chance to keep up his scoring start to life on Tyneside.


Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.


Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 Kieran Brookes, 18 James Goode, 19 Ollie Stedman, 20 Warren Fury, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Alex Crockett.



Like Matt Thompson, Nottingham’s starting hooker Joe Duffey is a double centurion, or at least he will be tomorrow night. His props Matt Parr and Michael Holford are both former Premiership players and Brent Wilson is captain in the back row.


Nottingham: 15 Andrew Savage 14 David Jackson 13 Tim Streather 12 Joe Munro 11 Alex Lewington 10 James Arlidge 9 Sean Romans 1 Matt Parr 2 Joe Duffey 3 Michael Holford 4 Dan Montagu 5 Nic Rouse 6 Rupert Cooper 7 Brent Wilson 8 Alex Shaw.


Replacements: 16 Shaun Malton 17 Ryan Bower 18 Joe Quinn 19 Tom Calladine 20 Finlay Barnham 21 Joe Cobden 22 Andrew Forsyth.



It’s great news that there will be a busload of away fans at the home of the other Magpies tomorrow night with the game being on a Friday. However, with Nottingham “smashing” pre-match sales records this week, it might be a bit of a battle off the pitch as well as on it. Looking forward to a good game, even if the blizzards do materialise.



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