Continuing his fascinating series of rugby reminiscences, Kingsley Hyland picks out some key moments from this week in history throughout the decades.
20 YEARS AGO – NOVEMBER 23-30, 2000
Falcons’ head coach Dave Walder has good cause to look back fondly on the 2000/2001 season, with his match-winning try against Harlequins in the Tetley Bitter Cup-Final at Twickenham.
A more impressive all round performance, however, came in the Premiership match at Kingston Park on November 26, 2000, when, as a youthful 22-year-old deputising for Jonny Wilkinson at fly-half, he kicked all of the Falcons’ points in the 32-27 victory over Saracens to equal a record – since beaten only once – for the most number of points scored in a Premiership match by a single player.
What made the achievement more remarkable was the fact that Walder had never previously scored a Premiership try, and Kingston Park was even more susceptible to strong cross-winds as the current West Stand had yet to be built.
The wind did not appear to bother Walder as he knocked over three early penalties, before the first of three defensive lapses allowed Sarries back into the game. The visitors were allowed to break from deep in a move which culminated in second row Scott Murray taking a pass from Richard Haughton and crossing for the try, converted by Duncan McRae to leave the score 9-7 after 16 minutes.
Following an attacking lineout on 25 minutes Walder sprinted clear of the Sarries defence to touch down under the posts, his conversion restoring the Falcons’ nine point lead at 16-7. This lasted barely five minutes as Gerald Arasa exploited more weak defending to score under the posts, with McRae again converting. Penalties from Walder after 38 minutes and in first half injury time gave the home side a 22-14 lead at the break.
Once again Sarries were allowed back into the game and Arasa’s second try, converted by McRae, brought the score back to 22-21 before Walder and McRae exchanged penalties.
With less than 15 minutes remaining the Falcons scored what should have been the decisive try when George Graham’s break set up an attacking ruck from which Gary Armstrong moved the ball right to Walder who dummied and went over, his conversion giving the home side what should have been a comfortable 32-24 lead.
Walder, having registered his first miss from a penalty attempt, was forced to leave the field with a facial injury and then, with 10 minutes remaining, Stuart Grimes was sin-binned for a professional foul. McRae kicked the resultant penalty and the Falcons were left to defend their precarious lead a man down.
Showing a defensive resolve so badly lacking in the earlier stages they held out, as Sarries threw the proverbial kitchen sink at the defensive line.
The match was watched by 5,473, the best attendance for over two years. Their number included distinguished former players who had attended a celebratory dinner the previous evening to mark the club’s first anniversary of the first National Cup win in 1976.
The Falcons team was: M.Stephenson; L.Botham; J.Noon; T.May; I.Tuigamala; D.Walder; G.Armstrong; I.Peel; R.Nesdale (rep. M.Howe, 48); M.Hurter (rep. G.Graham, 48); H.Vyvyan; D.Weir (capt – rep. S.Grimes, 48); R.Arnold (rep. M.Ward, 55); A.Mower; R.Beattie.
25 YEARS AGO – NOVEMBER 23-30, 1995
Rob Andrew’s attempts to kick start the Sir John Hall revolution at Kingston Park were hampered by the archaic league registration regulations, which meant that newly signed players must serve a 120-day waiting period before becoming eligible for their new club in a league game. A number of big-name players had been signed and the club took the opportunity to blood as many of them as possible in two ‘friendly’ matches within four days of each other.
First up were third division Harrogate in a match which saw Andrew and Irish legend Nick Popplewell make their debuts at fly-half and loose-head respectively.
The presence of these seasoned internationals appeared to inspire their hitherto struggling team-mates as the home side secured a comfortable 51-5 victory.
Andrew opened the scoring with a fifth minute penalty before converting a Graham Childs try on 9 minutes. Andrew’s second penalty was followed by the first of skipper Ross Wilkinson’s two tries, again converted by Andrew. A debut Popplewell try and Andrew conversion gave the home side a 27-0 half-time lead.
Andrew got the second half scoring underway with a 42nd minute drop goal quickly followed by Wilkinson’s second try, with Andrew again adding the conversion. Harrogate managed a consolation try through Andy Caldwell on 57 minutes, but late tries from Martin Wilson and Tony Mullarkey, both converted to give Andrew a total points tally of 21, put a gloss on an impressive victory.
The Newcastle team that day was: I.McLellan; M.Wilson; R.Wilkinson (capt); J.Fletcher; G.Childs; R.Andrew; G.Robson; N.Popplewell (rep.B.Adlington, 52); A.Hetherington; P.Van-Zandvliet; F.Mitchell; R.Metcalfe (rep.A.Mullarkey, 61); N.Frankland; S.Cassidy; D.Holder
Reigning South Africa Super 10s champions Transvaal proved far sterner opposition four days later in front of a then capacity crowd of 3,350.
Although Doddie Weir and Gary Armstrong had signed registration forms with Newcastle they had still not finally agreed to join the club, and remained eligible for their current clubs. Weir sat out this game as Melrose had an important fixture on the following Saturday, but Armstrong made his debut off the bench against a side boasting five members of South Africa’s World Cup winning squad, including legendary hooker James Dalton. John Dixon, recently recruited from West Hartlepool, made his debut in the second row.
The home forwards committed themselves impressively and the game remained competitive for some time before the visitors’ greater pace enabled them to pull away in the latter stages.
A second half hat-trick from winger Jacko Louw gave Transvaal a flattering victory margin of 38-13, their other tries coming from Van Rensburg, Schutte and Dalton. Pslugler kicked three conversions whilst Van Rensburg improved his own try. For the home team there were tries for Dixon and Neil Frankland with Andrew adding a penalty.
The Newcastle team that evening was: I.McLellan; M.Wilson; R.Wilkinson (capt); J.Fletcher; G.Childs; R.Andrew; G.Robson (rep.G.Armstrong, 70); N.Popplewell; N.Frankland; P.Van-Zandvliet; F.Mitchell; J.Dixon; R.Arnold; S.Cassidy; D.Ryan
Newcastle had not yet become the Falcons but were the newest addition to Sir John’s Newcastle Sporting Club. The Club’s ‘senior member’, Newcastle United, were going great guns and came from behind to beat Leeds United 2-1 at St James’ Park on the Saturday to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League, before travelling to Liverpool in the 4th round of the League Cup on the Wednesday, where a goal for Steve Watson was enough to see the Magpies through to the next round.
5 YEARS AGO – NOVEMBER 23-30 2015
This week’s visitors to Kingston Park, Sale, also provided the opposition on the last weekend of November 2015, albeit on this occasion at the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford.
On a wet and windy afternoon Sale were indebted to Danny Cipriani, who kicked five penalties to account for all of his side’s points. He did however miss with a penalty attempt from the last play of the night, which would have given the home side an undeserved victory.
The weather dictated that kicking dominated a dour contest but the visitors did manage two tries through Bobby Vickers and prop Jon Welsh, together with a conversion from Tom Catterick and a penalty from Mike Delany which opened the visitors’ account on 12 minutes after Cipriani’s first penalty had given Sale the early lead. His second restored the lead at 6-3.
A speculative kick from Michael Young forced a knock-on close to the Sale line after 25 minutes, and from the resultant scrum Vickers was adjudged to have touched down for a trademark try. Catterick, on as an injury replacement for Delany, could not add the extras, and Cipriani’s third penalty again nudged Sale in front - a lead they extended to 12-8 with the last kick of the first half.
Cipriani’s fifth and final successful penalty punished the Falcons’ defensive indecision and extended the lead to 15-8, but the visitors earned their deserved share of the points with a try from a ruck touched down by Welsh - Catterick nailing the conversion from wide out.
In an indication of player turnover in the modern game, the teams that day were:
Sale: M.Haley; T.Arscott; S.James; S.Tuitupou (rep. M.Jennings, 73); W.Addison; D.Cipriani; C.Cusiter (rep. P.Stringer, 58); R.Harrison (rep. E.Lewis-Roberts, 58); T.Taylor; V.Cubilas (rep. B.Mujati, 58); B.Evans; J.Mills (rep. A.Ostrikov, 58; D.Braid (capt); M.Lund (rep. V.Fihaki, 63); T.J.Ioane.
Falcons: A.Tait; G.Venditti; A.Powell; JP Socino (rep. C.Harris, 59); M.Watson; M.Delany; M.Young; R.Vickers; G.McGuigan; J.Welsh; S.Robinson; C.Green (rep. M.Botha, 69); M.Wilson; W.Welch (capt); N.Latu (rep. A.Hogg, 61).