The Falcons last night failed to find the imagination necessary to beat a poor Saracens side and as such are relying on Bath to beat Wasps this afternoon, or we will be condemned to 12th place.
After a week of tension, excitement and a little controversy over a strip of red, 8,000 people packed into Kingston Park and saw probably the worst first half of rugby played in the Premiership in 2012.
Neither side showed any kind of ambition, and by the time the Falcons did, with 20 minutes left, it was too late. A losing bonus point may prove useful but it could have been so much more.
Gary Gold named an unchanged side from the Gloucester victory for his last home game in charge, while Saracens' Brad Barritt was a late drop-out and was replaced by fellow England international Charlie Hodgson. It's tough at the top sometimes.
The first half was dominated by the boot as neither team wanted to make any mistakes with the ball in hand, preferring to do so when the other side was on the attack. Owen Farrell's first attempt at a penalty dropped short, but he made no mistake with his second kick from in front of the posts.
The England fly-half hit the outside of the post with his next go, and that was pretty much it for the first 40. About the only other incident of note was Peter Stringer being shoulder-charged in the leg when clearing from our 22. The tackler was committed but made no attempt to use his arms. The officials weren't interested.
Initially the second half was little better. I was beginning to imagine the team talk: “If only you would kick a bit more and chase a bit less, we would be winning.”
Farrell doubled Saracens' lead with another penalty, and though Jimmy Gopperth got us on the scoresheet with a kick of his own, with 15 minutes left Farrell restored the six-point gap.
The Falcons then decided that they might as well have a go, and led by the hearty Tim Swinson and storming replacement Taiasina Tu'ifua, battered the away defence with everything they had.
JP Doyle sent Justin Melck to the sin bin for an offence that I can't remember, but several of those who have seen it on TV seem to think it was a little harsh.
Several times the Falcons got within inches of the line, roared on by a crowd that had got over the first-half frustration, but with the clock on zero we spilled the ball five metres out and Sarries kicked dead to secure their win.
Four points were there for the taking last night and it is only our fault that we got just one, meaning that Wasps have the chance to relegate us (Championship playoffs pending) this afternoon.
If the Falcons play like they did yesterday at Adams Park in two weeks then we may as well not bother. However, if we go back to what we did at Gloucester, then we can pull it off.
That's one of the great things about supporting the Falcons – you never really know what they are going to do. Although it doesn't feel so great this morning.
This is harsh, the Falcons hardly "blew it". The way this is written you'd think we were favourites in this match. This was bottom of league v last years premiership winners. Falcons performed well to get that close, as they absolutely had to.
Sounds like a very frustrated Leipy - not the usual sort of report. Not long ago we would have been ecstatic holding Sarries to a 6 point deficit, not to mention just 9 points for them in total. Now we're disappointed that we didn't put them away.
We lost the season before mid January - draw v Wuss, poor show v Chiefs at KP & not waking up until 30 mins in at Edgeley Park. Add those to a single point loss at home to Tiggers & I think they are the crucial ones. You can forget about the big losses - we were dire in those.
I think it shows just how much things have changed in a very short time - those 4 games I mention would have put us in a much better position (another 14 points) & not having to worry about relying on Bath this afternoon & the possibility of simply having to beat Wasps away on the last day of the season.
I think Leipy has captured the spirit of the game perfectly. It was totally without any ambition from either side in the first half. Yet again it was obvious to eveybody except those in charge that the tactics were going nowhere, but still we plodded on until around 65 minutes. As soon as the Falcons started to attack with purpose they got results, but alas it was too bloody late yet again.
It was an exact copy of so many games this season, except for the sublime defence which has thankfully been brought into our game.
Play like that at High Wycombe & it will be a miserable day for Falcons supporters.
Yes, agree with David. You're suffering a little today Leipy. Hope is a wonderful thing but it can lead to over-expectation.
I think the way to see things is that we were relegated after the Exeter game. The fact that we are even close is down to a magnificent effort by the team and coaches. We cannot blame them for not breaching one of the best premiership defences.
We were always going to have to rely on results away from our influence going our way.
The same Sarries side put 50 points at Welford Rd on the Leicester side that beat us at KP and yet couldn't cross the whitewash against us.
We are a different side, but the lads are still human. We always knew this weekend would be a rollercoaster.
I think "blew it" is quite apt in the sense that Saracens showed little ambition, looked unlikely to score a try and if our tactics were not so negative for the first 55-60 mins we may well have won.
"Four points were there for the taking last night and it is only our fault that we got just one" sums it up for me.
We tried to beat Sarries with Sarries tactics & kit & in the end the original came out on top.
Fitzy had a lovely break down the left in the 2nd half & I think he saw the try line & went for it but IF he had of made the pass to the left I think we would scored a try. Thought Tu'ifua offered a quite a bit when he came on. At the end would of liked a forward to have been bold & stand close to East touchline to try & get a one-on-one situation.
Leipy I usually find your reports capture games perfectly. But I think as other have said you're too harsh here.
We gave the English Champions a helluva game. We should also acknowledge their successful tactics of keeping us pegged back in our own half,knowing our backs couldn't offer a long range threat, contributed heavily to the lousy spectacle.
I'm sure it was a far tougher game than Sarries expected and they left for their bonding trip in Spain relieved to have held on by the skin of their teeth.
If the last 20 minutes had been the first 20, would anybody be saying "good effort, unlucky"? If we had played the style we did in the last 20 for the whole 80 does anybody doubt that we would have won well?
The South Stand Choir (NEW POST: Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 18-23 Saracens):
Leipy's article speaks for itself, but i can't buy the suggestion of alternative history. The last 20 mins were not he first 20. In the first 20 we were being hammered at by a strong side, and did well to survive it. After that we came into the game a little more. We were playing the national champions, did well to get close and could almost have won it, but didn't. Playing in the style of the last 20 for the whole 80 (i.e. desperately) probably would have provided them with more opportunities too.
Playing that way for the full 80 may have overstretched fitness levels too. It is only fairly recently that the regime at KP has changed from drifting in for training mid morning then drifting off mid afternoon. A couple of months of full match intensity training, and full days at work will have worked wonders but maybe Gold knows still not enough to take on the intensity of a team like Sarries for the full 80.
Were Sarries really that poor or did we just prevet them from looking as good as normal? May not have been an exhibition of running rugby but there was mega effort put in out there and Sarries set piece was very good.
It wasn't vintage Sarries, but they did enough and walked away with a win. The Sarries defence was tremendous, as usual. I think in any other circumstance we would be happy with a point, we have been a poor side all season and have few attacking options, particularly out wide; to push them the way we did was as much as we could realisticaly hope for. I do not see how we "blew it", that suggests that the game was winnable for us at some stage, either through a decent points margin or total domination of play - neither ring true to me, not even the last 10 mins.
If I were a neutral I would probably come to the conclusion that the Falcons held the current champions & did marvelously well to get a bonus point.
As a fan, I too am disappointed that Sarries, good as they were, were clearly rattled in the second half & were there for the taking but were let off the hook. Saving the line hammering for the last 10 minutes was a good effort, but clearly not enough.
One of the most telling points on Friday was a fellow supporter who does not play the game (& I believe never has) pointing out that each time the Falcons kicked, play ended up behind where the ball was initially kicked from. Adaquate return from those tactics?
In the cold light of day & having avoided the board all weekend to think it through, I am concerned that Wasps will play the most negative game ever to thwart our chances of getting five tries, but also that (Swinno aside who may want to make amends for the final knock on - not solely his fault but he clearly felt it was) we might not have the aggression & determination to get the score required.
I shall be spending the day with a mixture of Falcons & Wasps fans getting pickled at Gateshead RFC Beer Festival & listening on the radio.
I get the impression the fat lady is gargling with honey & lemon, we need another lady to sing for us though.
In the final moments whilst seaching for a chink of light in Sarries defence did we not touch the posts padding with the ball? I thought we had (Tui'fua I thought) and I thought this constituted a try? Can someone please clarify.
I know Leeds scored this way against us at KP last season.
I still dont think we blew it, I think we got the first half tactics wrong and kicked far too much, however, Sarries defence for the last 15 minutes was immense so congrats go to them for that.
To score a try by touching the ball against the post padding, it must be touched at ground level, not higher up.
The following is from Law 22.4(b) :
Grounded against a goal post. The goal posts and padding surrounding them are part of the goal line, which is part of in-goal. If an attacking player is first to ground the ball against a goal post or padding, a try is scored.
As an oddity, I do not know if this still applies ( no mention appears in the afore-mentioned Law 22, therefore presumably not ) but at one time you could score a try by touching the referee with the ball in the in-goal area.
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