September 18 2011
The Falcons got off the mark with their first point of the Premiership season yesterday but will feel gutted that an epic match at a white-hot KP didn't yield a first win of 2011/12.
It's taken a while, but the team that won the cup semi-final at Harlequins six months ago has finally returned from London and yesterday our boys put in a massive performance against Leicester, eventually losing by a single agonising point.
Still missing Andrew van der Heijden and Jamie Helleur as well as our first choice front row, the Falcons had Alex Tait back for the visit of the World Cup-depleted Tiggers, who included Kieran Brookes and Micky Young on the bench alongside Ben Woods while James Grindal started.
The Falcons started on the front foot and I believe Jimmy Gopperth's early penalty put us in the lead for the first time this season, though Billy Twelveminutes (sorry, Twelvetrees) equalised.
Gopperth edged us back in front but an unconverted try by Ed Slater on the left hand side, the Falcons' defence stretched by Leicester's crossfield move, put the visitors ahead.
The Falcons didn't let their heads drop though and continued to probe in attack. We went back in front when Greg Goosen found a gap on the far left, but the conversion missed and Twelvetrees equalised with a penalty before half-time, despite the scrum-capped centre having a difficult day with the boot.
The referee even went to the TMO for one early Leicester penalty, despite the touch judges seeming certain it had not been scored. I didn't know that could happen, and I'm still not sure how the cameras would have had a better view than two blokes under the posts, unless there was a helicopter. Cue “Are you sure ref?” at some of the Falcons' successful kicks.
This last penalty was given for our tackler not moving away, an interesting decision considering the Falcons then attacked hard and no Leicester players felt obliged, nor were they forced, to do that. It's all well and good saying “Play the referee” but when only one team is being penalised for something then there's only so much you can do.
The intriguing battle continued into the second half and roared on by a raucous 4,000+ Tim Swinson dived over from close range for our second try, Gopperth converting. However Falcons summer target Julian Salvi repeated the trick to score beside the posts.
Twelvetrees unbelievably hit the post with one of the easiest conversions he'll ever have to take. One wag was heard saying “England cap, you're having a laugh” but it didn't catch on.
There was little time to breathe with Twelvetrees kicking another two penalties either side of a Gopperth kick, and Leicester were 21-22 ahead.
The drama continued with Luke Fielden scoring his first try of the season, in remarkably similar circumstances to his last score at KP. Gopperth knocked the ball through and the TMO ruled that Fielden had got fingertips to the ball first. The conversion, which in the end turned out to be crucial but didn't have to have been, missed.
Yet again, I feared to watch but couldn't turn away, willing the seconds to tick down, and the crowd roared on the Falcons through a Leicester attack. The Tigers sucked the defence in on their left and when the ball was finally spread the Falcons had no defenders left to stop Steve Mafi touching down for a heart-breaking try.
Twelvetrees again couldn't convert and the Falcons looked for a drop-goal, but couldn't get close enough to the goal and when Gopperth took the ball into contact the referee gave Leicester a penalty for holding on, allowing the Tiggers to kick for touch and condemn us the narrowest of defeats.
This is what sometimes happens when teams at the bottom of the league play those at the top, you can play superbly with all the effort in the world and it isn't enough, but it should give the team and supporters a lot more confidence ahead of Irish and Wasps.
A win would have been better but play like that and we'll beat a lot of teams. Happy days.
Quote:nd the Falcons looked for a drop-goal, but couldn't get close enough to the goal and when Gopperth took the ball i
That was a false position though Sim, if Leicester finish 11th I'll - well, it doesn't matter because it won't happen.
Thanks for the kind comment.