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)