BACK TO THE DAY JOB
April 3 2019
This weekend will I suspect have a touch of the “after-the-Lord-Mayor’s-show” about it as we return to the Gallagher Premiership and welcome Newcastle Falcons to Barnet. Many of the squad are enjoying a bit of Alpine Apres-ski at St Anton for a few days but I have no doubt Mark McCall will have his mind fixed firmly on this Saturday. We haven’t yet secured a semi-final spot, let alone a home semi so we can’t afford to take our foot off the accelerator. Although, having said that we have a pretty straightforward run-in.
Only 2 home games – Newcastle & Exeter – but of the 5 remaining games, 4 are against opponents who are looking down rather than up. That in itself may be problematic as Newcastle, along with Worcester, Brizz, and arguably Wasps have their Premiership lives to play for! 5 points on Saturday (and surely that should be what we are aiming for) will ensure semi-final qualification – 4 would probably be enough given our huge points difference. Ensuring a home semi will take a bit longer but 13 points from the remaining 25 on offer should be enough – however I don’t see our Coaches leaving it to the last couple of games ! Hopefully by then we will have bigger fish to fry and looking to rest players for greater things to come.
After a successful season last year, Newcastle have fallen back to their old ways and sit at the bottom of the table. However things at the bottom are a lot tighter than they are at the top with Newcastle 3 points behind Wuss (in 11th) but just 10 points behind Bath in 7th. Whereas I doubt if Newcastle expect to win in their wildest dreams, they will be scrapping for anything and everything. And we have come unstuck against lowly ranked teams before (although usually Wuss who seem to be a bit of a banana skin for us). Newcastle have won their last 3 Premiership games but amazingly have lost the last 20 encounters with Saracens. Sarries are unbeaten at Allianz since losing to Leicester Tigers in Feb 2018.
Having said that, Newcastle are no pushover. Marshalled by Dean Richards, they have experience in Toby Flood, Mark Wilson, Goneva, Takalua, Green and Sinoti Sinoti (so good they named him twice) and they might just want this one more than we do. We need to be on our guard.
Last season Sarries won all 5 of their last Premiership Games easily – scoring over 50 points in 3 of them. But then there was sadly no European distraction. This season resources will have to be managed more carefully.
Newcastle have no choice but to pick their strongest team for every remaining game. We shall probably see few changes from the side which beat Sale Sharks last time out (including Callum Green who has been found not guilty after being cited for allegedly chewing Webber – Ashy might like the name of his lawyer!)): Hammersley, Goneva, Harris, Matavesi, Sinoti, Flood, Takulua; Lockwood, McGuigan, Mulipola, Green, Robinson, Graham, Hardie, M Wilson
I suspect we will see some squad rotation for Sarries with most of the first team only playing once between now and Munster with the likely exception of Faz & Rhodes who need some game time, and the centres (sorry Loz, you deserve a week off) who need to play together. We are short of top class 9’s (with Wiggy still out and I don’t think Whiteley is ready yet) so Spenno will have to soldier on and the front row is also a bit thin without Mako & Figallo if we give Jamie a deserved rest. Here’s hoping we might see Mako next week! It’s anyone’s guess how Smally will call this one though! So here’s my stab at the team for Falcons:-
Williams, Lewington, Tompkins, Lozowski, Strettle, Farrell, Spencer; Barrington, Woolstencroft, Koch, Kruis, Itoje, Rhodes, Earl, Wray – with Goodey, Maitland, Jamie, Skelton, Billy (and Brad) having this week off (and Williams, Kruis, Wray & hopefully Spenno, Barrington & Koch next week).
We should win this one - with a try bonus to be honest but it’s a funny game! The whistle is in the hands of probably the best of the younger bunch of refs – Karl Dickson. Hopefully he watched Nigel last week and learnt from the master! (And big congrats to Karl for being selected for the World Cup Panel of Refs)pqs: qs:
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019:04:14:13:16:52 by Darraghgirl.
The Machiavellian streak in me says " Put the kids out";
The Premiership will be far more exciting if Falcons garner 5 points before hosting Tiggers!
There's not much chance of us missing out on a home semi, and, anyway, our first team could win at Castle Grim, and a weakened team could Stoop to conquer!
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IMO we should put out a strong team until the home SF is secured, then Mark M can manage the 1st XXIII match time in the run-up to the season's climax.
If we do make both finals, we are going to need our very best players on their very best form. Even that may not be enough, as shown a couple of years ago facing Exeter straight after a huge battle with Clermont.
Wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please - Niccolo Machiavelli