FALCON FRIDAY: Newcastle v Wasps Preview
September 28 2018
4 rounds of this seasons Gallagher premiership have been completed, and we can safely say that in the English garden of rugby teams the 12 bulbs planted are starting to give hints on how well their stems will grow and their flowers will bud. How they will bloom as they go through their annual 9-month cycle before once again going into hibernation as the smell of summer barbeques overwhelm our collective senses will have to wait as 320 minutes of growth is far too soon for final displays to be predicted or assured. Yet as with all plants some are shooting sunwards whilst others struggle to establish their root system in order to try for more impressive blooming later on, and indeed Newcastle Falcons head gardener Dean Richards will have been rooting around in his potting shed in search of some miracle grow as his team have yet to hit the heights of last season’s display. 1 victory against a tenacious Warriors side, with a late Toby Flood penalty settling the argument in a 23-20 nail biter is set against 3 losses to Saracens, Tigers and Chiefs, where a total of 105 points and 12 tries were forcibly wrestled from their grasp, with their reward being 2 losing bonus points gained. Yet no shame should be attached to this, yes this is the first time since December 2015 that they have lost 3 games in a row at Kingston Park, but to push pre-season favourites Exeter and Saracens close is no shame, and better days most definitely lay ahead, the question must be though does Richards though on the quick response liquid to the Newcastle flower bed, or should the slow release option be better for a team that will not only have sights on the Premiership, but also on a return to the top tier of European rugby where Edinburgh, Montpellier and Giants Toulon lie in wait? A frosty reception that can even undermine and damage the hardiest of blooms. Maybe a splash of the first to cover the weekends coming swarm, whilst a good covering the of the latter to manage what rugby’s weather gods have in store.
For us Waspies it is another game on the hallowed astro-turf of Kingston Park in a part of the North West that is more noted for its football team, the country’s oldest football stadium in St James Park which has seen many teams tilting at round ball success since 1880. However, we do have to give a good nod of appreciation to a City that has given us the father of the railways in George Stephenson, and to all accounts the un-named inventor of the windscreen wiper, its creation being attributed to a Newcastle United supporter after driving home post-match in a storm in the early knockings of the 20th century. As you traverse the City where Jimi Hendrix once busked you may enjoy a Lucozade, a jar or 2 of the United States most popular British ale in Newcastle Brown or perhaps a quick snack on a Wispa, all of which can be attributed to or launched from the City in the shadow of the Pennines and watched over by the Angel of the North. Whichever route you take though it will lead to the rugby gates in which we have enjoyed a large amount of success in recent years, 5 away wins on the bounce at Kingston park with 3 of these being try bonus point successes. Indeed, the last time we had to tick the loss column at the Falcons nest was in the 2011/2012 season where 5 Jimmy Gopperth penalties and 15 points outmatched our 10 points gathered from a solo try from Wade with a conversion and penalty from fly half Ryan Davies making up the arrears. Of that day Wade, Launchbury, McIntyre and Daly for Wasps and Tait, Welch, Wilson and Hodgsen with cross team Gopperth remain. Gopperth will be a notable absentee from this weekends reunion as he continues his recovery from knee ligament damage sustained in pre-season, thus plot twists and cliff hangers will have to originate from different authors this Friday evening, yet this is a ground where weather has its own subplot where swirling winds and cold weather is to be expected from a stadium whose location sits on the same latitude as Copenhagen.
It was acceptable in the 80’s
The match ups alone will be worth the entry price alone this week and we need not look much further than at the DOR’s with Richards and Young going head to head. Both have done wonders with their clubs and are the main reasons for notable improvements over the years not only on but off the field, whilst restoring much needed pride in two historic clubs. Two men who played at the coalface but know how to command a pack of forwards whilst creating excitement and top end ability from their backs. The battle of the back three will be fascinating. Both sides have dangerous strike runners in broken field play, Wade is an obvious choice, yet Dai saw reason to start Watson last week. If well would it be a reasonable call to start this weekend with Bassett running the other wing and Christian getting a deserved rest. Conundrums abound with regards to the 15 shirt, chances are that we may well see Daly revert to this position over the ever ready Miller in place of South Africa duty bound Willie La Roux. All will have to be on their guard as opposite numbers Goneva, Hammersley and Tait are just as dangerous in broken field as Wasps are. The midfield will have a huge say in this and may provide the game defining moments. Le Bourgeois has the ball skills of a 10, and a second playmaker will only serve to strengthen Sopoaga’s game, as will his relationship and understanding with Robson and Simpson strengthen as more live play minutes are accrued. De Jongh would be the natural outside centre if Daly is on fullback duty, he will lead the defensive line with aplomp, but he must also develop his offloading game to bring the back three into the equation.
This season the forwards look to be taking the next step in physicality in the scrum and their own maul. Yet the defensive maul has wobbled, especially in defending the 5-metre attacking line out. Strides must be made here to stop the Newcastle 8 getting an advantage, too many times have penalties, points and cards been conceded, this must cease. Launchbury is still MIA, however Gaskell, Rowlands and Myall are certainly more than capable of powering the engine room in the scrum whilst ensuring a accurate and effective line out, where hopefully an edge can be gained over Will Witty and Calum Green. Turnovers will be hugely important, shorn of fantastic jacklers Young and Willis though injury Taylor, Carr, Johnson and Hughes need to affect these to ensure momentum and field position is gained and exploited. If Wasps can tie in defenders around the ruck and commit more than Newcastle would like to around the breakdown then space will open in the wider channels for our gazelles to cross the whitewash, and maybe come 10pm Friday evening we will be putting a tick in the win column.
So to all Waspies whether travelling to Kingston Park or rushing home from a day at work to enjoy the game on or behind the sofa, cheer the lads onwards as they continue through the early growing season, and remember….
Once a Wasp ALWAYS a Wasp
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Ince again thankyou to ukms for posting the articles and for your kind comments, i really do enjoy writing them for you all.