Ward targets improvements against Wasps

Wednesday 29 September 2021 Written by: Adam

The Falcons were 20-13 winners at The Rec in their most recent Gallagher Premiership assignment, but their failure to land the four-try bonus point has kept Ward and his troops firmly grounded.

“It was a bit of a strange one after the game, to be honest, because there weren’t any real celebrations,” said Ward, the former England Saxons prop who remains the Falcons’ record appearance maker.

“You’d think winning your first away game of the season, and being down at Bath, the boys would be a bit more upbeat, but I just think they’ve got that real progression and improvement mind-set. They know there was a bonus point out there for us and were disappointed not to get it, and to be honest it was a pretty quiet bus home.

“In past seasons we might have been jumping through hoops at a 20-13 away win, but all the chat during the week has been about how we can convert our chances into tries on a more regular basis. We’re not sat here saying we’re a great team, but we know we’ve got a good foundation.”

With the club’s wingers grabbing most of the headlines, the former prop joked: “The backs have got nowt to do with it – it’s all about the forwards, as any rugby player knows!

“On the whole we’ve had a decent start, getting a bonus point at home to Harlequins and then winning down at Bath, although obviously you’d want two wins from two.

“From a forwards’ point of view we’ve been relatively happy, although we need to tighten up on a couple of delivery things and finish off a few more of our chances.

“We had Carl Fearns ruled to have been held up over the line against Quins when he knows he’s scored it, and then last week at Bath there were a couple of opportunities where we lost control a bit at the back of the scrum and a couple of line-outs where we let it slip.

“That side of things gives us room for improvement even though we’re pleased on the whole, and it’s good to know that there’s still more to come.”

One particularly pleasing aspect of last weekend’s victory was the set-piece score which saw George McGuigan racing in for the third try from a pre-planned move at the back of the line-out.

“Our head coach Dave Walder was the brains behind that one – basically just in terms of identifying a space in Bath’s defence during the week which he felt we could exploit,” said Ward.

“As a coaching team it’s always nice when those things come off, and against different teams you’ll have different things you’ve identified. We were pretty pleased with the way that one ran, and credit to the players for executing it so well.”

Up against Wasps on Saturday, Ward’s charges will be facing a side who inflicted a 44-8 defeat on Bristol Bears last weekend.

“You always look at the scores when your own game’s finished, and I must admit I couldn’t believe that one at first,” said Ward.

“Everyone knows what Bristol did last season and what a good side they are, so fair play to Wasps for beating them by that margin. It was Wasps’ first game and they had quite a few new guys in, but they played how Wasps play and threw the ball around.

“They like an offload, and they’re a dangerous team if you give them time and space. They got a couple of quick tries at the end which took the scoreline out a little bit, but it’s still a decent feat whichever way you look at it.”

Well aware of the threat posed by Saturday’s visitors, Ward added: “We’ve played Wasps enough to know what they’re about – Lee Blackett their head coach has been there a few years now and they haven’t changed too much of what they do.

“They like throwing the ball around so we’ll need to be tight defensively, and they’ve got a lot of former Newcastle players like Jimmy Gopperth, Zach Kibirige, Ben Harris, Rob Miller, Ben Morris and lads like that.”

Asked about the early-season contribution of No 8 Carl Fearns, who has been prominent in the opening two games, Ward insisted the former Lyon, Bath and Sale man has fitted in well.

“Fearnsy’s a big old unit, and the things he does in those tight areas are just really effective from my side of things,” he said.

“Sometimes with good ball-carriers they like to stand out in the back line waiting for the ball rather than putting their head into a maul, whereas with guys like Fearnsy, Gary Graham, Callum Chick and most of our lads, to be fair – they don’t shirk that real tight stuff.

“You don’t get a nose like Fearnsy’s by hanging out in the back line, put it that way!”

Tickets for Saturday’s 3pm kick-off against Wasps are available by [**clicking here**][1].

[1]: https://www.eticketing.co.uk/newcastle-falcons/EDP/Event/Index/1651