Fixture: Newcastle Falcons v London Irish
Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 23
Date: Friday 22nd April 2022
Stadium: Kingston Park
With a place in the last eight of the EPCR Challenge Cup confirmed, London Irish will hope to continue their winning form on the domestic front when they face Newcastle Falcons this Friday.
After a difficult run of games in the Gallagher Premiership against Northampton Saints and Harlequins, Irish got back to winning ways in extravagant fashion with 10 tries against Castres Olympique, the third highest points amassed by a team in a Challenge Cup game this year with 64.
Falcons have won three of their last six games, each of which have come in different competitions, but their most recent loss at home to Glasgow Warriors spelled elimination from the Challenge Cup.
The side from the North East find themselves three places and 21 points adrift of the Exiles in 11th with four rounds yet to be played, having finished just three points behind Declan Kidney’s men last term.
In seven of the last eight league encounters the home side have come out on top in this fixture, including Irish’s 43-21 defeat of the Tyneside outfit in early December, but Falcons’ last home league win was against Bristol Bears in October.
Nevertheless, Irish will look to banish a near eight-year duck at Kingston Park with their last win at the ground coming back in 2014 despite a late flurry from the hosts.
The boss- Dean Richards:
After reaching a decade with Falcons in his Director of Rugby position, Richards is in his eighth season in the Premiership with the Club after last year’s 10th-placed final standing.
He has guided the Club to two promotions from the Championship, a feat he also achieved with Harlequins in 2006, along with a first top four finish since their 1997/98 title win in 2017/18.
Whilst playing out a 15-year career on the field with Leicester Tigers, the former police constable shared his responsibilities with the force back in the game’s amateur days.
His first off-field position within rugby began with a six-year campaign at Tigers that bore four successive Premiership titles and back-to-back Heineken Cup wins in 2001 and 2002.
One to Watch- Iwan Stephens:
The one-time England under-18s rugby league international linked up with Newcastle Falcons in 2020 from Super League side Leeds Rhinos, adapting to the code expertly not only with Newcastle but on loan with National Two North Rugby side Blaydon.
Son of former Wales international Colin Stephens, the 20-year-old was recently awarded a two-year, first team contract with Falcons off the back of an eye-catching yet curtailed first full season being included with the side.
After scoring a try in each of his first three appearances (including the first Try of the Round this season against Harlequins), Stephens suffered a knee injury against Wasps before adding to his try-scoring collection in an exhibition win over Heriot’s at the start of April.
Stephens also made his England under-20s debut this term, lining up alongside Irish Academy products such as Henry Arundell and Will Joseph and will be keen to kick on in a potential first run out against the Exiles.
Classic Encounter: Newcastle Falcons 18-20 London Irish - 14th September 2014 - Aviva Premiership
A climactic conclusion to affairs saw London Irish edge to their last win in Newcastle to date as Juan Pablo Socino’s late missed conversion meant the Exiles walked away with four points.
A poor afternoon from the tee for the Argentine was conversely bettered by opposite number Shane Geraghty, pulling Irish into the lead with two goal kicks after Josh Furno’s home debut try.
Geraghty played his part in his side’s first try after half-time, assisting and converting midfield partner Fergus Mulchrone’s effort but in a hasty reply, Scott Wilson drove over from a rolling maul.
Irish’s final score by Andrew Fenby was met with protests from the home faithful over Blair Cowan’s pass in the build-up, nevertheless a late fightback couldn’t be completed by Falcons after Sinoti Sinoti’s try with Socino striking the upright and missing the decisive kick.
Tries: Josh Furno, Scott Wilson, Sinoti Sinoti
Penalty: Juan Pablo Socino
Tries: Fergus Mulchrone, Andrew Fenby
Conversions: Shane Geraghty (2)
Penalties: Shane Geraghty (2)
Newcastle Falcons Director of Rugby Dean Richards reflected on last weekend’s exit from the EPCR Challenge Cup at the hands of Glasgow Warriors, finishing 17-27 at Kingston Park.
“It doesn’t help when your set-piece doesn’t function as it should do, and we made plenty of mistakes,” Richards bemoaned.
“A little bit of tweaking made a difference in the second half, and while you can’t fault the guys’ endeavour, you’ve got to couple it with a higher level of accuracy and discipline.”
The 58-year-old also previewed this Friday’s encounter against Irish, explaining how similarities between Warriors and the Exiles may prepare his side well for the match-up.
“London Irish will be a good chance for us to show we’ve taken on board the lessons from tonight, because they offer a very similar type of game to Glasgow.
“They have a good line-out and scrum, they’ll challenge us with ball in hand and play a fast-ruck game.
“It’ll be interesting to see how our boys respond to that challenge after the Glasgow performance, and I’m looking for a considerable improvement.”