Tom Marshall reflects on try-scoring start
The 22-year-old has had to be patient this season with a wealth of back-row talent at the club’s disposal, but when fellow academy graduate Will Haydon-Wood made a 37th-minute line-break, it was Marshall on his shoulder to score from the resulting ruck.
“I went a bit against the grain of what we would normally do in that situation, but I just saw the space and thankfully it paid off,” said Marshall, who represented Scotland at Under-20s level having previously been involved with the England age-group set-up.
“Harlequins put on a decent show with all the lights, fireworks and a sell-out crowd, so it was great to be involved in an occasion like that away from home against the champions. It was a good experience to be in that environment, although with having not played much this season my lungs were going a bit!
“Quins are a strong side who play good rugby, and the ball was in play for a lot of time. That was a great test for my fitness and I could feel it in my legs, but I just enjoyed the whole thing.”
Showing patience as he waited for his chance at a first team start, Marshall said: “There have been a few low points this season where it does get to you, but you have to look at the depth and quality we have in the back row. You can’t complain too much because we’ve got a huge amount of talent there, but it was great to finally get a shot.
“I’ve just had to keep my head down and work hard in training, be that in the gym or on the field, and I know I needed to do that to improve in certain aspects. I’ve put on a bit of weight, got a bit stronger and quicker, and I felt good out there for it.
“We’ve got more games coming up like the Premiership Rugby Cup, and hopefully I’ll get another shot at some point soon. It’s down to me to take it whenever it comes, because I’ve had a taste of it now.”
Asked about his route into the professional ranks, Marshall explained: “I joined Blyth rugby club when I was very young – something like five years old. I’m a Blyth lad, and I had some good coaches there.
“One of my teachers at Morpeth Road School, Mr Bell, took me to a few of the Falcons games when I was in year three or four, as did my dad, and when I went to Bede Academy Mr Sutherland was really good, putting in a lot of time with me.
“From there I moved to Gosforth Academy to join the Falcons’ ACE scheme when I was 16, and it’s a good programme which a lot of good players have come through. Private schools are obviously good and they have their own little circuit, but for lads in the state system the ACE programme is a really good option.
“I’ve been out on dual-reg at Tynedale in previous seasons, and then this season I’ve had a few games for Darlington Mowden Park, both of which have been really good. That’s helped me a lot, as well as obviously training every day with the Falcons, and it’s just nice to be playing rugby again.”
With a Premiership start and a try now under his belt, how has life changed for the Northumbrian?
“I tried to stay away from putting anything on social media leading up to the Harlequins game just because I didn’t want it to distract me, but we had a long bus ride home after the match where I went back through and looked at all the messages,” he said.
“It was great to see so much support from family, friends, my old schools and clubs, and just supporters in general. We didn’t get back from London on the bus until just about 5am on the Saturday, so I had a good flick through and just want to say thank you to everyone who said nice things.
“I saw the Falcons had posted on social media saying that our 8, 9 and 10 last Friday was the same as the one which played for the Falcons Under-16s back in 2016. That was nice to see, and it’s great that boys I came through the system with are all starting to get their chance now.
“When we came out of the tunnel at Harlequins on Friday it did just feel like running out with your mates to play a bit of rugby, which is kind of what it was, but it’s just funny when you think it was in the Premiership in front of a sold-out crowd.”
Newcastle Falcons’ next assignment comes this Saturday when Saracens are the Gallagher Premiership visitors to Kingston Park Stadium, with Marshall confident his side can kick on.
“Saracens are obviously a really good side, as everyone knows, but we’ve also played some decent stuff ourselves,” he said.
“We created a lot of opportunities at Harlequins, we know the parts of the game where we need to work and the lads will be making sure we’ve nailed it down for the weekend.”
[**Click here**] to buy tickets for Saturday’s 3pm kick-off against Saracens. Stay on and watch England v Ireland at 4.45pm on the TVs in the stadium bars.