Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 21-22 Rotherham Titans

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Saturday 23 August 2014, 3.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Friendly

 

Well I don’t think anybody expected that result on the debut of our new plastic pitch. A simple conclusion from today’s home defeat to Rotherham would be that there was some good stuff, some not so good stuff, and lots to work on. Pretty much a normal outcome from a pre-season friendly.

 

Firstly, the good: the lineout functioned quite well, the scrum too for the most part but not always. Most of the team looked quite fit. Juan Pablo Socino fitted in well into the midfield, Sinoti Sinoti and Scott Lawson looked as sharp and eager as ever, and Calum Green showed some good carrying and tackling. Simon Hammersley is likely to get more first team games if he continues to show the same solidity at the back and pace going forward.

 

Phil Godman – I was a big critic of his last season, but today I thought he looked incisive and quick, rather than ponderous and flat as for much of 2013/14.

 

Not so good: poor discipline for periods, culminating in a yellow card for Green. Two Rotherham tries coming from our defence being stretched – something that didn’t look likely to happen at the other end. Handling errors, a plastic pitch won’t make the ball any easier to handle in the wet. An inability to break down a Championship defence for long periods, and struggling for possession at times.

 

So lots to work on I think, I’d say penalties being the most worrying. In a league game against a better team that didn’t also offend frequently, we might have been kicked out of sight today.

 

But despite some seemingly pointless kicks as we’ve come to expect but hoped to avoid this season, I think the team showed some good attacking intent, certainly more than during the depths of last winter, and with a decent pitch we might see more of that throughout the coming season. Things will come together if the team just keep plugging away at what is certainly the right way to play.

 

Final thought for today – it may not have been a fantastic game or a positive result, but it was good to be back at KP!

 

 

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

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Match reaction: Rotherham Titans 22-34 Newcastle Falcons

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Saturday 2 March 2013 – 3.00pm

Clifton Lane, Rotherham

RFU Championship #17

 

I’m at a total loss to explain yesterday’s match. For the first half an hour the Falcons were in total control, but then Rotherham took over and could probably count themselves unfortunate not to become the first team to beat us this season.

 

Four tries up after less than 30 minutes, the scoreline reading 0-28, some away fans were predicting a cricket score. But it didn’t work out like that and the storming start died off to allow the Titans to score 22 unanswered points, before two late Joel Hodgson penalties made the win safe.

 

It wasn’t as if we even kicked away too much possession wastefully, as happened at Leeds, for example. On a balmy sunny day the conditions could not be used as an excuse. For a lot of the second half we just couldn’t get the ball and were forced to defend for lengthy periods.

 

All that said, the Falcons played some nice stuff and dominated the concerning Yorkshire pack early on, though we were aided by Laku Makaafi being sent to the bin after just a few minutes for taking out Andrew Higgins in the air.

 

The first try saw a beautiful instant offload by Scott MacLeod on the far right, James Hudson scoring the opening try. I thought both second rows had excellent games yesterday, the lineout functioned very well and they both got through some good work.

 

Jamie Helleur also remains in solid form and made a fine break to score the second try. The fourth try was not a great one for the spectators, a penalty try coming following five minutes wasted by repeated scrums.

 

Rotherham’s first try came before the break and was controversial, with many believing the ball had not been grounded. But the score was given, and the two teams came out for the second half like the opposite of what they had been at kick-off.

 

I can only remember the Falcons having one try-scoring chance in the second half – replacement Alex Crockett steaming for the line and rolling over the white with a tackler, yet inexplicably failing to touch down. Following that Hodgson sent a big kick across the field but it was too far for Helleur to catch infield.

 

Taiasina Tu’ifua’s yellow card for a late tackle didn’t help things, although Rotherham’s last three points were all we conceded while down to 14 men.

 

So it was a strange one, I presume that privately Dean Richards and the coaches weren’t very happy but surely we need to get consistency back into the team before the play-offs.

 

Opinion was mixed about whether it would be good to lose a game before the playoffs. Personally, I think it’s best to keep going unbeaten, as if things do get hairy in a playoff second leg, we should still have confidence and the opposition may be wary that despite some tricky situations this season we still haven’t lost.

 

Interestingly though a bonus-point win over Bedford on Friday night will secure top spot for us, just two weeks after we made sure of a playoff place, since the Blues were beaten at home by Bristol yesterday. A point will do if Nottingham get nothing at home to Plymouth this afternoon.

 

Finally, Clifton Lane (or the Stafforce Stadium) is another nice little ground on the Championship Magical Mystery Tour. The seated stand is very small and the main bar was busy if you didn’t know that there was a little alternative one around the corner. The balcony outside the clubhouse made for a great spot from which to watch the game.

 

Somehow, I don’t think Meadow Lane will be quite the same.

 

 

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

Match preview: Rotherham Titans v Newcastle Falcons

Titanic going down

Saturday 2 March 2013 – 3.00pm
Clifton Lane, Rotherham
RFU Championship #17

The Falcons have visited several new grounds this season, and though Clifton Lane is not somewhere we have not never been before, it has been a rare destination in our club’s 135-year history. Tomorrow it is the venue for the 17th match of our first (and hopefully only) season in the Championship as Rotherham become the latest to take the Falcons’ scalp.

The meeting of the two sides up at KP back in October was notable for three things – Zach Kibirige’s try-scoring league debut, Rotherham failing to get on the scoreboard (the old one), and the fact that the second half ended with a blizzard coming down over north-western Newcastle.

Rory Lawson, Jonny Golding and Scott MacLeod were also on the scoresheet to give us a bonus point but unrest about form began, the home fans not being satisfied with a 33-0 win.

Mind, Rotherham are not having a bad season, sitting a respectable eighth in the Championship table with six wins, nine defeats and a draw in their 16 outings.

The titanic Titans come into this game on the back of a 49-7 home defeat of Aberavon (*gets nostalgic*) in their rearranged final British & Irish Cup game, though this was not enough to give Rotherham a place in the quarter-finals as they finished three points behind Munster A in Pool Seven.

Two weeks earlier, Plymouth Albion were also vanquished at Clifton Lane, though that was Rotherham’s first home win since beating Doncaster in early November, some three months earlier. In between times, Leeds, Munster A and Nottingham were all victorious in south Yorkshire.

Before that though, Rotherham started the season unbeaten in four home games, drawing what must have been an amazing game with Bedford 38-38 in September before sending Jersey, Bristol and Plymouth (in the cup) back south contemplating defeat.

Sitting just a point behind seventh-placed London Scottish, the Titans will have hopes of taking that place and matching last season’s finishing spot in the table, though catching Leeds, Cornish Pirates or Bristol in the top six may now be beyond them.

As I said, the Falcons have been to Clifton Lane twice before amid just nine previous meetings with Rotherham. The first was in the final weeks of 1996/97, our last season in this division, when John Bentley, Va’aiga Tuigamala, Rob Andrew, Garath Archer, Pat Lam and Steve Bates were the try-scorers in a 21-45 win, alongside a penalty try.

An early-evening thriller was played out in the last week of the regular 2000/01 season in the Premiership. Relegated Rotherham gave the cup-winning Falcons a scare in Tom May’s first (and last for nearly eight years) senior game in the number ten shirt. Gary Armstrong had kicking duties and knocked over two penalties and four conversions, while joining Michael Stephenson, George Graham (two) and Jim Jenner among the try-scorers, both teams getting the four-score bonus point.

More recently, we visiterd Millmoor in the cup in Rotherham’s last season in the top flight, winning routinely and then on the final day of that season a 20-26 win in Sheffield ensured the Titans ended the season winless.

Falcons away to Rotherham:
19/04/1997 Clifton Lane                     Division 2        W45-21
10/04/2001 Clifton Lane                     Premiership   W39-36
16/11/2003 Millmoor                           Cup R6              W38-10
08/05/2004 Don Valley Stadium    Premiership   W26-20
Rotherham’s squad has few well-known names, although Lee Blackett and Gareth Denman are former Leeds Cardigans, both suffering relegation from the Premiership with the Titans’ more northern county rivals.

The Falcons have an unchanged starting lineup with Tom Catterick being OK after a knock against Pirates. George McGuigan could come on to make a first team debut and Sean Tomes replaces James Goode on the bench. I’m looking forward to seeing Michael Tait play for once, but Noah Cato has tonsilitis and won’t be breathing his illness all over his teammates and opponents.

Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Andrew Higgins, 13 Michael Tait, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Scott MacLeod, 5 James Hudson, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.

Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 James Hall, 18 Sean Tomes, 19 Taiasina Tu’ifua, 20 Warren Fury, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Alex Crockett.
Rotherham have named the below team for what their website says is their “toughest test of the year”, with Curtis Wilson starting following his loan move from Leeds. It is the big pack that should give us a good test though on a tight pitch.

Titans: 15 Garry Law (c), 14 Mike Doneghan, 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Curtis Wilson, 10 James McKinney, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 1 Jamie Kilbane, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Gareth Denman, 4 Ben Thomas, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Latu Makaafi, 7 Carl Kirwan, 8 Toby Freeman.

Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Marshall Gadd, 18 Ross Davies, 19 Laurence Pearce, 20 Alex Rieder, 21 Lee Blackett, 22 Jimmy Williams.
For those getting to the ground early, there is a Clifton Lane curtain-raiser at 12.15pm when Rotherham Phoenix U14 play Northumberland’s own Novocastrians U14, the latter bringing three coaches full of members to Yorkshire.

After that is the main event, and hopefully the Falcons will pick up from last week and put down another marker ahead of the playoffs.
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 33-0 Rotherham Titans

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Friday 26 October 2012 – 8.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

RFU Championship #7

On the way to KP tonight, wor lass told me that this week she had a dream that the Falcons won the league this season but ended up getting relegated!

I suddenly got a huge fear that maybe we forgot to register any players at the start of the season.

But that being doubtful, it now looks like Bedford away a week today is all that stands between us and top spot in the Championship. On paper at least.

Things are rarely that simple in sport. For example, the 33-0 scoreline in our home win over Rotherham last night tells only half the story of the game.

I’m all for showing respect to the opposition, and if we don’t we will fall on our face sooner rather than later, but lets face it Rotherham are not Leicester or Munster.

There is no need to kick and not chase in this (or, in my opinion, any) league, and the sooner the players and management realise that, the sooner we will get crowds back to where we want them.

This, and the missing of some obvious overlap opportunities for our wingers tonight, led to more than one choir member reminiscing of the bad old days of the Master.

At least Zach Kibirige never played in those days, otherwise he’d have sought the nearest defender on his big run tonight. As it was, he scored a good try and is looking a very promising player.

Other than that we can obviously be pleased at a 33-0 win after an iffy show, with little real danger of conceding bar Rotherham’s good spell of possession. Even then our defence was committed and resolute.

The real ale seems to have gone down well, I myself enjoyed a nice half-time pint of Paradise Ale thanks to Monkey’s generosity. Keep that on next time please. Newcastle Exhibition or McEwan’s Best Scotch would go down well too.

It’s a weird day today, all that snow on the ground. It’s reminding me of that game against Exeter up in Gala a few years ago. Another nice rugby club awaits us in Bedford on Saturday.

Blueswatch shows that the Bedfordshire side visit Bristol tomorrow and willing be looking to close the gap again before the #epic Goldington Road clash next weekend.

You’d think the Falcons will have to improve from last night to avoid an uncomfortable afternoon down south.

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

Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Rotherham Titans

Friday 26 October 2012 – 8.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

RFU Championship #7

 

The Falcons return to league action tomorrow night when Rotherham make a first competitive visit to KP since November 2003, when we defeated the then-Premiership whipping boys by over 40 points.

I personally remember that game because I was back in England for the weekend from Leipzig, and although I spent three of the four nights in Manchester, I obviously had to make sure there was time to take in a home match!

Our last outing against the Yorkshiremen was however a friendly in August 2010. In a double-header, our reserves took on a big and tough Titans side at Cochrane Park before a bad-tempered first team clash at KP, which Alan Tait’s team won 48-12.

Just looking at the team that day, we had Gcobani Bobo, Andy Henderson and Tim Ryan in the starting line-up, all players who either fortunately or unfortunately did not make such a great impact with us. Got to love Bobo’s enthusiasm though, and who could forget THAT tackle on Chris Ashton? (About 43 seconds in).

Anyway. We have a relatively short and sparse history with our northern cousins, having shared a league in only three previous seasons, all of them in the professional era. The Falcons have won all nine meetings though. The Clifton Lane side were our final opponents our last second-tier season, losing 61-13 at KP in May 1997, and they have since spent two seasons in the Premiership, the last being 2003/04. It would have been 2002/03 had they not been barred from promotion the previous year, sparing Leeds.

The last competitive meeting in the North East was that November 2003 game, when the Falcons won 56-10. Tom May, in a prolific season, got his second hat-trick of the term, while Jamie Noon scored twice and hookers Nick Makin and Matt Thompson also got on the scoresheet. If you don’t include Micky Ward, young Thumper is the only player from that 22 still at KP.

 

Rotherham in NE13:

02/12/1995 Club Match                W29-12

04/05/1997 Division 2                   W61-13

10/09/2000 Premiership               W34-19

09/11/2003 Premiership               W56-10

21/08/2010 Friendly                      W48-12

 

The Titans currently sit sixth in the Championship, with three wins and a draw giving them 17 points in their opening six matches ahead of, like ourselves, two victories in the opening rounds of the British & Irish Cup. Last weekend they hammered Plymouth 59-26 at home in the cup, avenging a 15-3 defeat on the south coast at the end of September.

They have also lost away to London Scottish in the league this season, though have won at Nottingham. The Titans also defeated Bristol at Clifton Lane in their last league game, 23-16, and drew at home to Bedford last month, so they are a decent team and no doubt the Falcons will respect them.

Interestingly, our visitors have scored twice as many tries so far this season than they had in their first eight matches of 2011/12, crossing 26 times so far and averaging 3.2 tries a game. They also have 249 points in total, compared to 155 a year ago.

Though they do not have many big names in the squad, they do have a big fella in the backs in the shape of 108kg New Zealander Palepoi Nonu, as well as some sizeable props who could well give our front row a tough time tomorrow night. I almost forgot to mention Garry Law, reportedly one of this division’s best kickers.

Difficult game, it will be, is what Deano might tell our lads if he has a dodgy lunch and sprouts pointy ears.

 

Following his debut try against Cross Keys in our last home match, and an outing for Blaydon at the weekend, Zach Kibirige celebrates his 18th birthday with a Championship debut tomorrow night, starting alongside stars like Jimmy Gopperth, Rory Lawson, Jonny Golding and Ally Hogg. Chris York could also make his first league appearance for the Falcons from the bench, while the glaring absence is James Hudson. Sean Tomes’ beef may be needed against a big opposition however.

Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.

Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 James Hall, 18 Sean Tomes, 19 Chris York 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 James Fitzpatrick.

 

Rotherham have meanwhile made seven changes to the team that hammered Plymouth, bringing in a whole new front row. Tighthead Ross Davies in particular looks to be a bit of a size, at 6’1” and over 18 and a half stone, not that Shane Cahill is a slouch at just 5kg lighter. Two props and a hooker on the bench suggests they are expecting a tough night’s work up front though.

Titans: 15 Fergus Mulchrone, 14 Peter Homan, 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 Lee Blackett (c), 11 Mike Doneghan, 10 James McKinney, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Shane Cahill, 2 Dan Baines, 3 Ross Davies, 4 Toby Freeman, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Nile Dacres, 7 Carl Kirwan, 8 Alex Rieder.

Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Jamie Kilbane, 18 GarethDenman, 19 Joe Ellyatt, 20 Garry Law, 21 Joel Gill, 22 Charlie Mulchrone.

 

The ticket prices are simple, there’s real ale at £2.50 a go (if you like that sort of thing and get your vouchers), and we are going for an eighth bonus point and ninth win in nine games. What’s not to love?

Looking forward to tomorrow night now. Am I forgetting something? Ah yes, forgot to get me ticket! Get that sorted now.

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir: @SouthStandChoir)