Newcastle Falcons 30 - 25 Saracens


The 9th Forward
By aidanb
September 13 2017

  This happened 20 seasons ago during the 97 /98 season.   I was at the game at KP on Wednesday 25 March 1998 with a 19:30 kick off, as were 6867 others.  

 

 

Newcastle Falcons 30 - 25 Saracens (FT). with a Falcons lead of 17 – 10 at halftime

 

 

Newcastle that day were made up of these players;

 

 

15           FB           Stuart Legg

14           W            Jim Naylor

13           C             Jonny Wilkinson

12           C             Alan Tait

11           W            Martin Shaw

10           FH           Rob Andrew

9              SH           Gary Armstrong

1              P             Nick Popplewell

2              H             Ross Nesdale

3              P             van Zandvliet

4              L              Garath Archer

5              L              Doddie Weir

6              F              Pat Lam

7              F              Richard Arnold

8              N8          Dean Ryan (c)

 

Replacements

16           Neil Frankland

17           Tim Stimpson

18           Peter Walton

19           David Barnes

20           Richard Metcalfe

21           Chris Simpson-Daniel

 

It looks odd to see a certain J Wilkinson not at 10, but in those early days he played at centre and just look who was lined up against him at 13 for Saracens, only one of the most wonderful centres France ever produced. I wonder if the Wilkinson nerves were jangling before that game.

 

 What a Front Row

Saracens that day were equally as star studded;

 

15           FB           Matt Singer

14           W            Ryan Constable

13           C             Philippe Sella

12           C             Steve Ravenscroft

11           W            Brendon Daniel

10           FH           Michael Lynagh

9              SH           Kyran Bracken

1              P             Roberto Grau

2              H             George Chuter

3              P             Paul Wallace

4              L              Paddy Johns

5              L              Danny Grewcock

6              F              Alex Bennett

7              F              Francois Pienaar

8              N8          Tony Diprose (c)

Replacements

16           Ben Sturnham

17           Marcus Olsen

18           Andy Lee

19           Gavin Johnson

20           Brendan Reidy

21           Gregg Botterman

 

Wednesday night game eh, oh yes the leagues were a bit odd back then.

 

I’m going to focus on the forward battle in this game because it’s the one I remember the most from that game, even though it was all those years ago and it was beer fuelled.

One memory stands out for me that day as a mark of the quality of the Newcastle pack, a certain P van Zandvliet was involved in a tussle with the rampant Francois Pienaar. The tussle, on the floor, resulted in the former Springbok captain and world cup winner having to leave the field for a few moments; when he did come back on the cotton shoved up his now even flatter nose gave a clue just as to where the decisive and conclusive contact was made. These days there would have been an enforced HIA and certainly a match citing; but in those days the rough and tumble was accepted to a certain extent. If I was able to ask Francois what he thought of the matter I am sure it wouldn’t even raise a mention. RIP Paul, safe in the knowledge that you brought cheer to a lot of people during your time.

Now that certain memory has been aired I’d like to consider the game as a whole.

20 years ago and with no notes it is hard to put this game back together but I do know it was a tense affair later in the season as Newcastle were pushing to get their hands on the title and Saracens were doing a good job of that themselves. The more tense it got the louder the crowd got and the more beer we seemed to have.

At half time it was 17 – 10; with the game ending at 30 – 25 we lost the second half and our three tries from Stuart Legg, Nick Popplewell and Peter Walton’s second half effort topped a huge late game defensive effort to hold Saracens to just the one Tony Diprose try along with 6 Michael Lynagh penalties.

It was a fantastic effort from our guys to think that quality such as Inga Tuigamala, Alan Tait, John Bentley and Tony Underwood who all played in our backline that season.

Just look at the list of opposition superstars in there and you can bet that our marauding No8, Dean Ryan, will have collided with them happily; Danny Grewcock in the Saracens second row alongside Paddy Johns were no shrinking violets and they would have been mightily annoyed by Richard Arnold’s offside position all night. But Popp was there to defend his players on a number of occasions and probably dig Dean Ryan out of a couple of holes he’d gotten himself into. Saying that Ryan was more than capable of playing excellent rugby and resolving any differences of opinion with the opposition.

This was a momentous forward battle with clashes all night and as well as the first event described there was no quarter asked or given and I’m sure some of you might even be able to find it on youtube. If you do find one then link it in here, we will get to see Garath Archer and Doddie Weir in all of the second row majesty. Those two were excellent in there and it was great watching their different skills in action.

I think it is fair to say the Falcons had an abrassive pack which was also highly motivated and highly skilled. Ross Nesdale at hooker was a massive find from New Zealand and his subsequent discovery of Irish Roots allowed him to demonstrate those skills when he was capped for Ireland. Talking of skills we come to the majestic Pat Lam who was a fans favourite for his ability to be right in the heat of it with ball in hand or disrupting opposition play. He was quick alsoand one of those players you loved having in your team because of the work rate and skill.

Finally, the last forward in the starting lineup to get a mention is Gary Armstrong. Forward ? I can read you now saying he was the scrum half. Scrum half was the incorrectly named job description he was given. He was an absolute legend at 9 and spent as much time doing flanker work as he did getting the ball onto Rob Andrew’s boot. For those who can remember him, the game he played was perfect for the aforementioned abrasiveness of the Falcons forwards and he didn’t lack in pace around the fringes either. Woe betide any flanker leaving a body part over the ball too long or not having the defensive gaps covered; he was expert in making the opposition think it was Rob Andrews ball all day long and then going in past their creaping defence to open up a big hole.

One question not related to the match is to name the Bar which was in the corner between the South Stand and the West Stand? It was manned by one young lad in particular who did a great line in humour and seemed to have a particular skill in serving ice cold beer in the depths of winter.

Bearing in mind the ground was very different back then. The South Stand [as the north stand then also] was a set of paving stone steps about 6 or 7 rows deep and fully exposed to the elements. The West stand was a temporary scaffolding structure which was a threat to life and limb in high winds.

So, having given a fleeting mention to the game and the backs it would be good to hear from anyone who wants to add to the topic and describe the players and the game itself.

pqs: qs:
Newcastle Falcons 30 - 25 Saracens
Posted by: FalconsRugby.org.uk (IP Logged)
Date: 13/09/2017 15:47

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Re: Newcastle Falcons 30 - 25 Saracens
Posted by: There's 35 seconds to go (IP Logged)
Date: 13/09/2017 17:22

Wasn't it the 'John Smith's Bar'?

I was too young to drink then, and I don't remember the game.

Wasn't it also a Wednesday due to foul weather leading to a mid-end of season backlog of fixtures? I think we played Gloucester mid-week around then too.

Re: Newcastle Falcons 30 - 25 Saracens
Posted by: Exiled Falcon (IP Logged)
Date: 13/09/2017 18:56

Ah memories, what a season! There was a couple of Wednesday games and some at Gateshead which somehow weren't as enjoyable as KP, Leicester being one and I'm sure Bath. The very temporary temporary stand from memory was from Silverstone but I could be way off there.

Looking back you forget how good Sarries were even 20 years ago although we were non too shabby either. Fun times!

Re: Newcastle Falcons 30 - 25 Saracens
Posted by: Robs (IP Logged)
Date: 13/09/2017 19:24

Yes I was there as well and I think it was either that season or maybe the promotion season when we had a beer tent to the north of the East stand. I can recall getting into the ground via this tent on several occasions and never showing my season ticket to anyone!

Re: Newcastle Falcons 30 - 25 Saracens
Posted by: Monkey1 (IP Logged)
Date: 13/09/2017 20:10

Aidan you are a $%&? and a @#*! for that thread title. I nearly swallowed my own knees thinking I had the day wrong, had missed the game, in some other way dropped a cod.

You are forgiven, a great write-up of how things used to be, and just check out the referee in that photograph.

Re: Newcastle Falcons 30 - 25 Saracens
Posted by: dick g (IP Logged)
Date: 14/09/2017 07:48

It was during our move to Gateshead Stadium that we lost our unbeaten home record when we were beaten by London Irish. I still bear the grudge!

Re: Newcastle Falcons 30 - 25 Saracens
Posted by: Leipziger (IP Logged)
Date: 14/09/2017 08:30

I was at the game, I don't remember much about the on-field action specifically (though I seem to recall Richard Arnold was stretchered off and taken straight to hospital), however it was a very hot atmosphere, and quite an intense game.

Re: Newcastle Falcons 30 - 25 Saracens
Posted by: aidanb (IP Logged)
Date: 14/09/2017 09:26

Quote:
dick g
It was during our move to Gateshead Stadium that we lost our unbeaten home record when we were beaten by London Irish. I still bear the grudge!

during one of the other Int Stadium games S Barnes was given a very hard time by a group on corporate who felt he hated the Falcons. I wish I'd been there to help rather than just hear about it later.

Re: Newcastle Falcons 30 - 25 Saracens
Posted by: aidanb (IP Logged)
Date: 14/09/2017 09:27

Quote:
There's 35 seconds to go
Wasn't it the 'John Smith's Bar'?
I was too young to drink then, and I don't remember the game.

Wasn't it also a Wednesday due to foul weather leading to a mid-end of season backlog of fixtures? I think we played Gloucester mid-week around then too.

I think it went on to be called that but initially it was something far less professional, such as "Pete's Bar" or something like that

Re: Newcastle Falcons 30 - 25 Saracens
Posted by: Squawker2 (IP Logged)
Date: 14/09/2017 11:00

Quote:
Monkey1
Aidan you are a $%&? and a @#*! for that thread title. I nearly swallowed my own knees thinking I had the day wrong, had missed the game, in some other way dropped a cod.
You are forgiven, a great write-up of how things used to be, and just check out the referee in that photograph.

You think you had it bad! I wander over to have a look at what the opposition is saying and nearly collapse off my seat!

-----------------------------------------------------

Stuart Barnes is a Cock Womble

Re: Newcastle Falcons 30 - 25 Saracens
Posted by: Robs (IP Logged)
Date: 14/09/2017 12:31

I note that no17 for us that day was Tim Stimpson
Was that game after he'd fallen out with Squeaky? And he was on his way out (to Leicester and greater things!)
Can anyone remember what the fall out was about ?
Or did Squeaky just prefer Stuart Legg?

Re: Newcastle Falcons 30 - 25 Saracens
Posted by: Seany_Boy0511 (IP Logged)
Date: 14/09/2017 13:10

That's a great little thread as a Saracens fan who is only 26 I was too young to remember it, but this weekend hopefully it will be another top quality game, only this time Saracens coming away with the win!

Safe travels to those making the trip and maybe best team win

Re: Newcastle Falcons 30 - 25 Saracens
Posted by: Bedlington Lad (IP Logged)
Date: 14/09/2017 14:46

My recollection is that Stimpson wanted us to play a more open running game but the side was more forward - oriented so he didn't see as much ball as he would have liked, so he moved on.

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