Smith excited by cup rugby
Last Friday saw Newcastle Falcons pick up their fourth win on the bounce as they recorded a 26-30 victory against Rabo Pro 12 side Newport Gwent Dragons in the European Rugby Challenge Cup.
Notching up the first Falcons try on a score sheet which also saw Mark Wilson and Will Witty touch down, Lee Smith also added his name to the kicking tally and confirmed the Falcons victory when he slotted home a long-range penalty less than ten minutes from full-time.
Speaking after the game, Smith was in understandably high spirits about the match against Newport and the current Falcons run.
“Newport is a very hard place to come, but all the boys stuck in really well. They came at us hard in the last five minutes but we managed to hang on with a good safe scrum at the end and got the ball back up the field. I thought the lads did really well throughout the game; the forwards especially worked their backsides off but everyone did well and we’re massively pleased with how it turned out.”
Having put in a committed performance on the wing, Smith’s decisive moment came in the seventy first minute when the Falcons were awarded a penalty kick just inside their own half. With Newport fighting hard to overcome a one point deficit, Smith stepped up and picked up the extra three points that would confirm the final score.
He explained: “Just before that big kick I got a stamp on my foot right where I’d kick the ball so I was wary of that but Cleggy looked at me and I said yeah, I’ll have a dig. I hit it with everything I could and luckily it went over.
“Cleggy has a certain range and was brilliant throughout the game. I can kick a little bit further so anything in that situation with that amount of points I’ll have a dig. Other times we might go for the corner but if the message comes down I’ll have a go, it’s whatever the game situation calls for.”
With the Falcons now sitting at the top of their European Rugby Challenge Cup group having picked up consecutive wins against two of their three pool stage opponents, spirits are high about the team’s performance in a competition Smith is particularly excited about.
“This is big for me, I’ve never played in a European competition before and I’m really excited about it. We get to go to different places; Wales for this game, France and Romania.
“Last week was a strange one for me because I’ve never played against a Romanian side before but it’s brilliant, I think the European competition in rugby is great and I personally really enjoy watching it. Then to come to Wales and get four points and be at the top of the group is great, we’re really happy.”
With only Stade Francais left to face for the first time, there is no doubt that the French side will be a big challenge to the Falcons’ currently unbeaten record within the European competition. However Smith remains confident.
“Newport turned Stade over last week and quite convincingly so, so I don’t see why we wouldn’t be ready for them in the next round. We’re top of the group and we’re happy with that but we’re going to go away and regroup.
“Stade have to come to our place first and it’s not nice on a Friday night; it’s windy and cold up in Newcastle as much as I don’t like it I think the French will like it even less!”
With Smith amongst a host of standout performers in Friday’s game, he says there is a great deal of positivity around the Falcons camp.
“The boys are working hard and we’ve had four wins on the trot so we’re in a good place at the moment. Squad-wise there’s people pushing everyone for their positions which must be tough for Dean and the coaches because they’re the ones who have some tough selection decisions to make!
“But we’ve got a healthy squad too, a lot of people are fit and there are some guys already playing well and others about to come back in so that’s going to be interesting. The international window is coming up but we’re only missing Kieran, Josh and Eric during that time which is brilliant because it means we can keep some continuity. We’re confident, we’re a dangerous side at the moment and a lot of the hard work we put in in pre-season is paying off. We’re getting a bit of the respect we deserve now and heading into this league cup we’ll be revved up. “
With the start of the LV= Cup less than a week away, the Falcons are under no illusions that their first fixture in the competition, away to Northampton Saints this Saturday, will be a big one. However Smith remains positive:
“I’ve grown up watching cup competitions and I think they’re brilliant. I’d love nothing more than to win these two trophies so for me bring it on!
“Northampton are a fantastic team and I love the way they play, they’re brilliant. But they will lose a lot of players to international duty, so it will be a good opportunity for us to down there. They won’t want to face a side that’s won four on the bounce and will be wary of us so hopefully we can capitalise on that, and we’re looking forward to it!”
The Falcons’ first home fixture in the LV= Cup will see them face Cardiff Blues at Kingston Park on Friday 7th November. Tickets are available [online] or from the club’s 24 hour Ticket Hotline on 0871 226 6060.