SEASON SO FAR
A mixture of youth and experience took to the field against the Exiles as Dean Richards cast his eyes over the depth of his squad.
And his troops repaid his faith by securing the spoils, the Falcons’ second win over Brian Smith’s men in as many weeks.
It was a result that came as no surprise to the Kingston Park faithful, who have seen their team make a solid start to the campaign both in the Aviva Premiership and the two cup competitions.
Starting the season at home to Bath Rugby in front of the BT Sport cameras, the Falcons succumbed to a 21-0 defeat in atrocious conditions as Friday night rugby made a welcome return to Tyneside. The impressive George Ford turned the screw on the northeasterners with his intelligent kicking game to give former Falcons boss now Bath director of rugby Gary Gold the perfect start.
Licking their wounds from their opening weekend’s loss, Newcastle responded in positive fashion, showing character in abundance to edge out Sale Sharks 15-14 at the newly named AJ Bell Stadium. A forwards display of the highest ilk coupled with the boot of Phil Godman and Rory Clegg earned the Falcons a well-deserved triumph in Greater Manchester.
Leicester Tigers at Welford Road was the next proposition for Richards’ men the following week with Tigers supremo Richard Cockerill naming a strong squad. Despite putting in a courageous first half performance to trail 17-6 at the break, the Tigers blew the Falcons away in the second period to seal a 31-6 win. Falcons chief Richards praised the efforts of his troops following the game, particularly the performances of his young guns Dom Barrow and Scott Wilson.
Saturday’s opponents Gloucester Rugby lay in wait for Newcastle in Round 4 of the Premiership, and the North East club made a rip-roaring start to the contest. Tom Catterick’s try in the first minute of the game set the tone for the afternoon with the Falcons looking good value for the win only for a spirited Cherry and Whites unit to show their experience and class after the interval. 22-16 down with 80 minutes up, the Falcons were inches from the line and thought they had snatched the victory when Ally Hogg bulldozed his way over, only for referee Andrew Small to have adjudged the Scot to be held up over the line.
A trip to Sixways beckoned for Newcastle the following weekend as they looked to add to their tally of five points for the season so far. The Falcons began the match spritely, moving the ball from side to side at pace and the first ten minutes suggested that they would be easy winners. Mike Blair’s try in the opening exchanges put the Falcons in the box seat. However, the Warriors got a stronghold of the game and pushed the Falcons all the way, but the visitors came through in the end 16-11 to the delight of Richards and co.
Two wins and a losing bonus point was a decent return for the Falcons after five games, and they headed into successive Amlin Challenge Cup games full of confidence. Their European adventure began in the Romanian capital where the Falcons overcame Bucharest Wolves courtesy of a last minute Catterick penalty.
Getting off to a winning start in Europe, the Falcons were unable to back this up against Brive, losing 23-16 despite a well-taken try from Kiwi winger Ryan Shortland on his return from injury.
The Falcons soon switched their attention to the visit of London Irish in the Premiership and earned a compelling 13-11 victory to move them up to eighth place in the league. Leading 13-11 with less than a minute remaining, Irish were handed the chance to snatch the points when referee Greg Garner awarded them a penalty for an infringement at the scrum. Replacement kicker Shane Gerahty lined the kick up only for a gust of wind to dislodge the ball off the tee. Asked to hurry his kick by Mr Garner, the ball was teed up American Football style, and Gerahty’s attempt failed to have the legs to the relief of the majority of the Kingston Park crowd.
Newcastle then travelled to Allianz Park to face high-flying Saracens in their last Premiership encounter, looking to spring a shock on the London club. But Sarries, despite missing several marquee players due to their international commitments were too good for Newcastle, running out 40-3 victors. One could say that the score line did not reflect the Falcons’ efforts, but Saracens were nonetheless deserved winners.
Just short of the midway point in the season, the Falcons are nicely placed both in the league and cup competitions, and the campaign promises so much under the stewardship of Richards.