October 14 2012
OK, so I'm struggling for a headline.
For the third successive game the Falcons hit the half-century yesterday, in an eight-try demolition of Cross Keys in the opening game of the British & Irish Cup campaign.
Debutants Warren Fury, Zach Kibirige and Scott Wilson will have been pleased with their day's work, while a few other players put their hands up for selection once the league programme starts again, notably Jamie Helleur and Mark Wilson.
Dean Richards picked a team aimed at providing experience and minutes for players, as well as the obvious goal of winning the game: A Tait, M Tait, Hufanga, Helleur, Kibirige, Luveniyali, Fury, Shiells, Thompson, S Wilson, Tomes, MacLeod, M Wilson, Welch, Tu'ifua. Chris York was among the replacements and came off the bench for a competitive bacon debut in the second-half.
Hopes were high among the small crowd at KP that we could see the full three figures, though not on the scoreboard obviously as I believe it only goes up to 99, coincidentally the total we scored in our only previous home encounter with Cross Keys.
The Falcons looked in destructive mood early on and Michael Tait, making only his second first team appearance in 21 months, ran over on the far right for the opening try. An unlikely scorer perhaps of the first try two very young supporters have ever seen at KP.
The second score came from the lively Kibirige, who made a diagonal dash from outside to score in the middle. Waisea Luveniyali converted easily.
Kibirige looks a real prospect – the fact he is only 17 invites both excitement and caution, and we must also remember that in the future he will come up against far more testing defences that the Welshmen yesterday. But he knows how to beat players and hopefully he will only get better with experience.
With trialist Welsh international Fury providing a nippy and clever platform at scrum-half, our backs worked better than I've seen for the most part this season. However, the next try came from the pack, Taiasina Tu'ifua getting the score.
Captain Will Welch sealed the bonus point before half-time, never a bad thing. 24-0 up at the interval was good but the atmosphere seemed a bit flat, perhaps due to the low-ish numbers and the fact that the result was never in doubt. Maybe this is what some games will be like this season.
It certainly had the feel of one of those European games against Italian or Spanish opposition, when we often score a lot of tries with relatively little trouble.
Things were a bit louder in the second half as the South Stand got to see some action. There was some frustration when the Falcons needlessly and wastefully kicked possession away several times in a short spell, but overall we could be satisfied with a second 40 that yielded as many tries as the first.
Suka Hufanga, making a first senior appearance of the season at outside centre, broke through soon after the restart, leaving Luveniyali with a simple conversion. I really rate Suka, it's a shame he seems to be missing out in the league due to the foreigners ruling, it indeed that is the case, so it was good to see him get some action
Both teams seemed to lose their discipline a little in the second period and the game became niggly at times, though never really nasty I thought. Apart from, at a series of scrums on the Cross Keys line, the visitors' replacement scrum-half tried to trip Fury as he put the ball in and grabbed him. Eventually the referee gave a penalty try, seemingly for Cross Keys collapsing a scrum, receiving an earful from the away number eight for his decision.
The aforementioned replacement was sent to the sin bin for trampling recklessly on the back of a Falcon trapped in a ruck, and we continued scoring, first through Jamie Helleur breaking to the left of the posts, and then replacement hooker Michael Mayhew carried a tackle over the line to touch down in his first game of the season.
With conversions, the second half tries took us over 50 points for the third week in a row. It might have been more but Kibirige was denied a second debut score after the break when he was forced into touch just before the tryline.
Cross Keys got a consolation try, and maybe it's a bit patronising to say that they probably got what they wanted out of the game – they never gave up, despite being predictable outclassed, and they scored a try.
They were certainly intent on a five-point score, sending kickable penalties into the corner in the first half in particular, to applause from the crowd.
So it's Connacht reserves away this coming Friday in the second round of the B&I Cup group stage. I'd be surprised and disappointed if we don't win all six group games, as we are playing teams that are, literally and figuratively, not in our league.
Really looking forward to the return game in Cross Keys in January too.