Walder: Cup win can energise our season
Late tries from Robbie Smith and Alex Tait edged a thrilling Premiership Rugby Cup encounter at Kingston Park Stadium, with Walder saying: “It was important for the group that we came back at the end and showed the character that we did, and I’m just happy for the boys.
“We chose to go contestable from the re-start, got the ball back and scored from the next penalty, and when we did go behind we didn’t stay there for too long.
“We scored six tries from six different players, spread throughout the team, and we were excited by some of the bits and pieces coming off that we’d been working on. Yeah, it’s only one game so we’re not getting carried away, but it’s a start, and we can build from here with a bit more confidence around the group.”
A two-time Cup winner as a player with Newcastle, he added: “There are a lot of guys who have had to be incredibly patient in waiting for their chances, and they took them tonight. I thought George Merrick led the line-out well, Freddie Lockwood and Tom Marshall in the back row were busy again and Zach Kerr came in at short notice to start the game.
“I rang him this morning to tell him and he was in the middle of a lecture at Newcastle University, and he put me on speakerphone. I think I called him something I probably shouldn’t have done, so I want to apologise to his tutors and fellow students at Uni, but all joking aside he did well to slot in at the last moment and score his first try for the club.
“As well as the younger guys we had the likes of Callum Chick and Brett Connon, who both led the side well, and it’s nice just to see some smiles in the changing room and hear ‘The Blaydon Races’ being sung. It’s been a little while.”
Admitting it was not the perfect performance, Walder said: “We had some guys out there who have played hardly any rugby, and some who have played a lot, so I think there was an inevitability that we would find it tough at times.
“I’m pleased overall just for the lads to get a win, considering all the hard work they’ve been putting in over the last couple of months. From a mental point of view it’s massive for us, and even little things like kicking that conversion at the end to take the bonus point away from them – it’s great to see us taking those big chances.
“We played some good rugby and did what we talked about in parts, and in other parts we didn’t. It was just nice that instead of leading then getting pipped at the end, we did it the other way round this time.”
With the result the most important thing, he added: “Tonight was about winning, and we’ve done that.
“We’re aware it was a different competition tonight and a different kind of challenge to what we’ll face at Wasps next weekend in the Premiership, but we’ll now go into that with a little more positivity, which is such a powerful thing in sport.”
Newcastle Falcons’ next home game is on Saturday April 9 when they host Italian side Zebre Parma in the EPCR Challenge Cup.
[**Click here**] to buy tickets for the 8pm kick-off, which is not being televised in the UK.