Fixture: Newcastle Falcons vs London Irish
Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 19
Date: Sunday 5th March 2023
Venue: Kingston Park
Officials: Referee: Christophe Ridley; Assistant Referee 1: Neil Chivers; Assistant Referee 2: John Meredith; No4: Greg Dawson; TMO: Andrew Jackson; Timekeeper: Alan Hughes; Citing Officer: Buster White.
10th-place Newcastle Falcons host London Irish this Sunday at Kingston Park in a bid to close a nine-point gap between the sides in Round 19 of the Gallagher Premiership.
The Exiles lost to reigning champions Leicester Tigers in a 25-22, Round 18 defeat at the Gtech Community Stadium, but will seek back-to-back away wins in the league for the first time in three years this weekend.
With Falcons falling short to Irish four of the last five meetings in league competition, including a run of three losses, they have still maintained a solid home record of three straight wins across the Premiership and EPCR Challenge Cup.
Their last outing came in the capital against Saracens, taking a bonus point in a 29-23 loss thanks to a converted Adam Radwan score and Brett Connon penalty to extend a run of two consecutive Premiership losses.
Former Ireland representatives Paddy Jackson and Connon could face off this weekend in what might be a pivotal match-up at fly-half for the second and third-highest respective point scorers in the league.
Jackson has so far thrown more misspasses (61), made more crossfield kicks (eight), and more metres from penalty kicks (3,430) than any other player this season.
His counterpart Connon scored the most points in the Premiership last weekend (13) with a 100% conversion rate, additionally recording the most kicking metres from kicks in play (5,240) and has kicked two 50/22s.
The Tynesiders have scored more first-phase tries than any other team (26); 27 of their 42 tries spawning from lineouts manoeuvres, with aerial threat Sebastien de Chaves making more lineout steals (11) and collections (77) than any player.
However, they still average the least number of visits to the 22 per game (6.67) and are second-last across the division in average tries scored per game (2.8) and points scored per game (21.7).
Benhard Janse van Rensburg has played as many Premiership minutes as any other player (1,189, = Sale’s Rob du Preez), and sits ninth in carries made alongside Newcastle’s Callum Chick (125).
The Boss- Dave Walder:
Last summer, former Falcons player Dave Walder assumed control of first-team rugby coaching after the departure of Dean Richards, his role also encompassing includes leading on team defence.
The former fly-half played a part in Newcastle’s cup lifts of 2001 and 2004, then being capped by his country England four times in that period also.
In his seven years at Kingston Park, Walder racked up 87 appearances in the league for Newcastle before a move further south to line up for Wasps, where he also picked up Premiership and Heineken Cup titles.
He finished off his playing days with Mitsubishi Dynaboars before re-joining Newcastle as a member of their coaching ticket in 2015, progressing through as Kicking Coach, Attack Coach, and then being promoted to Head Coach in 2017.
One to Watch – Matteo Carreras:
Mateo Carreras has been the form player for Newcastle Falcons over the course of the last six months, having joined the set-up on Tyneside in late 2020.
This season, the 23-year-old has crossed the whitewash 11 times for Falcons in the Premiership and once in the EPCR Challenge Cup at home to Connacht Rugby.
The stat line of the Puma only makes for better reading for the Kingston Park faithful; recording the most defenders beaten (44), the joint-most clean breaks (20) and second-most metres made (804) in the Premiership to boot.
At such a young age, Carreras is already famed for his rapid pace and nimble footwork which has spelled trouble for teams across the league, averaging a try every 75.5 minutes for Newcastle in 2022/23.
One of his 12 tries this campaign arrived at the Gtech Community Stadium in December, stating: “I scored the try but it was Radders [Adam Radwan] who did all the work… I think my role in it was just to catch the pass and put it down, and hopefully on Sunday we’ll be scoring a lot more than we did that day.”
The former Argentina under-20s and sevens player made his senior debut for his country in the 2021 Rugby Championship, and has since totalled seven caps.
Classic Encounter - London Irish 40-12 Newcastle Falcons – 13th April 2014 – Aviva Premiership:
Andrew Fenby bagged a first-half hattrick of tries to contribute to a convincing win for London Irish, who ran out 40-12 victors over Newcastle Falcons at the Madejski Stadium back in 2014.
Fenby’s sensational outing was further contributed with scores from fellow midfield pairing Fergus Mulchrone and Eamonn Sheridan, alongside a try from Gerard Ellis.
Remarkably, no points were registered by either team following their return from the sheds with Irish keeping out their opponents from a try all afternoon, Shane Geraghty’s tackle on Sinoti Sinoti a standout moment.
Rory Clegg’s four first-half penalties were all Falcons could muster on the day, met by James O’Connor bisecting the posts on five occasions to further Irish’s tally by 10 in Reading.
Tries: Andrew Fenby (3), Fergus Mulchrone, Eamonn Sheridan, Gerard Ellis
Conversions: James O'Connor (5)
Penalties: Rory Clegg (4)
Newcastle Falcons Head Coach Dave Walder evaluated his side’s response in the second half of their 29-23 defeat to Saracens at the StoneX Stadium after trailing by 16 points at the break.
"We just talked about individual choice [at half-time] which way we go from there - we can either roll over and embarrass ourselves or we can come out fighting and it was an individual choice and I thought that, to a man, in that second-half they all made the right choice.
"If you'd offered me the start of the game and said you were going to play 60 minutes with 14 men against the top team in the league and take a point, you'd take it.
"But then, at the same time if you told me we had three clear drops with the line in sight which would maybe have won us the game, we're hugely frustrated so I think I'll probably sit on the fence."