Strong show not enough against under-par Tigers
December 27 2015
After fighting through strong winds and heavy rain on the M6, about midday yesterday Mrs L and I were just about to get to the M1 on the last leg of the trip to Leicester, when there was a rasping noise from the front left tyre on the Patmobile. Closer inspection showed that the waterguard had come away from the car’s body a little and was rubbing on the tyre.
So using our (limited) technical expertise and a bit of dexterity to lie under the car, we managed to stick the plastic guard to the body using the last roll of gaffer tape on sale at Donington Park Services’ petrol garage, and get on our way again.
Just more fun on the never-ending Falcons Magical Mystery Tour.
Both teams will be disappointed by yesterday's result at Welford Road, for differing reasons. Leicester will have wanted a full five points and will feel they could have had a fourth try with a little time at the end, while the Falcons' performance deserved at least a losing bonus point.
Despite an eye raising lineup that included a first Premiership for Craig Willis and Mark Wilson wearing the number four shirt. Sonatane Takulua and Juan Pablo Socino's benching was a surprise too. However, the Falcons came out with purpose and a desire to ruin the Tigers' Christmas party on an unseasonably mild Midlands day.
The Falcons took advantage of Fraser Balmain receiving a harsh yellow for a tip tackle, Willis knocking over the penalty. We then had an attacking lineout that ended in Tigers ball, before another maul saw Nili Latu peel off and just about place the ball over the try line. Willis's conversion made the score an amazing 0-10 to the Falcons!
Despite my suggestion, referee Tim Wigglesworth didn't blow for full-time - I think he just didn't here me.
Leicester came back of course and after a big spell of possession in our 22, settled for three points from Freddie Burns' boot. Things started to go a bit wrong from a Geordie point of view as Belisario Agulla was shown a yellow card for a tackle on Veroniki Goneva that was not only off the ball but dangerous.
With advantage being played, Burns sent a long kick to the right and Telusa Veainu looked to have touched down - only for TV replays to show that the Tongan winger had dropped the ball at the crucial moment.
Mark Wilson joined Agulla in the bin after the Falcons conceded another penalty in our 22, and the breakthrough finally came with a try by Veainu. Burns' conversion levelled the scores.
The floodgates could have opened and it looked like they did when Mathew Tait danced through a gap and touched down, but like Veainu he couldn't keep hold of the ball. So the Falcons went into half-time well worth a 10-10 scoreline after a first half that saw a huge defensive effort but also some spirited attacking.
The second half didn't start well. Leicester attacked early and after a period of pressure in the 22, Peter Betham found a way over on the left. Burns kicked the conversion to give the Tigers a seven-point lead.
The Falcons didn't lie down however, indeed they may just have shaded possession and territory in the second half. George McGuigan and Will Welch drove forwards, while replacement scrum-half Takulua's speed helped keep us on the front foot. Despite some good pressure in the 22 though, we couldn't find another score.
The home side clearly had a bonus point win on their minds, sending several kickable penalties to the corner but finding themselves up against a firm Falcons defence.
It wasn't until the final ten minutes that our line gave way, Laurence Pearce taking a pass at pace on the right and driving over the line.
The conversion went wide, so a try would get us back into bonus-point territory, but the Tiggers had their claws out and were on the hunt for a fourth try. It didn't come - with the clock on zero, the referee blew for a double movement near the try line and ended the game, but to the disappointment of many in the home crowd.
I don't think I've ever been disappointed with a 22-10 win, but I suppose that's a measure of where our clubs' respective expectations are.
Unfortunately London Irish's win over Northampton has sent us to the bottom of the Premiership table, but yesterday's performance gives us some hope for Bath at home next week and of course the crunch clash in Reading after that.
Willis did very well on his Premiership debut in the Tigers' den, never an easy place for a young opposition player. Alex Tait and Simon Hammersley led the attacking among the backs, and Jon Welsh was a big driving force in the pack. Our scrum was solid despite pre-match concerns, and had the edge on the Tigers' eight at times.
So plenty of positives to take out of this match and into the coming battles. That said, we really need to start getting some wins quickly.
Happy New Year everyone, see you at KP on Saturday!pqs: qs:
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