January 2 2013
The Falcons began 2013 as they will intend to continue it yesterday with a bonus-point win in the top v bottom clash with Doncaster.
Although many had expected a bigger win than 10-28, and the performance was not perfect, it was far better than the video nasty against London Scottish and our lead at the top of the table now stands at 17 points, though Bedford have a game in hand.
The big team news of the day was the return of captain Will Welch to the replacements bench, though Rory Lawson had the metaphorical armband at the start. Zach Kibirige started a senior away game for the first time, while Doncaster included former Falcons Kieran Brookes and Tyson Lewis in their first XV.
The Falcons quickly established themselves as the stronger team up front but had to be content with a Joel Hodgson penalty in the early stages against a combative home defence. Jamie Lennard equalised quickly however, on one of Doncaster's few serious first-half attacks.
We relied mostly on the forwards in the first half and the away crowd became restless at the lack of penalties given to the Falcons in the scrum and maul. However, it was from a driving maul on the right that the first try came, as Lawson peeled off to dart between the marauding pack and the touchline and cross the tryline.
Hodgson couldn't convert from out wide but the referee added insult to injury for the Knights by binning Rhys Buckley and with the extra man the Falcons turned the screw. Keeping play tight, the Falcons put pressure on Doncaster's line on the left and from a scrum infringement Ian Tempest gave a penalty try.
Despite a second yellow card, this time to centre Dante Mama for a tackle so early it was almost in 2012, Doncaster did not lie down however and Brookes led from the front with some storming runs, even if Jonny Golding had him on toast in the scrum.
As the home side probed in the 22, a huge kick came over to the Doncaster right and Ryan Shortland lost out in the aerial battle, allowing Lennard to score. The full-back converted and the teams went into half-time at 10-15.
After the break the Falcons seemed to open up the game more, bringing the back three into play while Taiasina Tu'ifua also showed some of the power he has with ball in hand. After Hodgson had extended our lead to eight points with his second penalty, it was Tai who set up the third try, dribbling through for Luke Fielden and Zach Kibirige to chase down the right of the 22.
The ball bounced over the line just out of reach of Fielden and a defender, but Kibirige got to it just before the ball went dead and kept up his record of scoring on all of his first team appearances.
Among a raft of replacements, Welch returned to the first team following injury to the delight of travelling fans, and the lesser-spotted Waisea Luveniyali was brought on to give Hodgson a break.
Luvey almost grabbed the fourth try himself, touching down on the far left, but the officials decided the Islander had drifted into touch. Fans close to that area of the pitch strongly disagreed.
Just as it seemed like we might have to settle for four points, at the death the ball came to Kibirige wide on the right, and the teenage winger got on his bike and sprinted through the Doncaster defence for an excellent bonus-point try, his second score of the afternoon.
There were many positives from this game, such as playing the conditions well, the forward domination, and the fact that we were rarely in danger of conceding. Oh, and the cow pie!!
We should perhaps have converted more of our possession into points. But you can't really complain about the results – 17 points clear, 13 wins from 13 and 61 points from 65. Next up however in the league is the visit of the resurgent Cornish Pirates at the end of January, which may be a bit tricky.
Happy New Year!
Quote:Despite a second yellow card, this time to centre Dante Mama for a tackle so early it was almost in 2012