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Out of the woods?

By Monkey1
February 17 2016

  Three wins out of five Premiership games so far in 2016, and a bonus point from each of the losses, gives us a bit of hope that we are now truly competitive in the league after a slow start to the season. Is this the start of our renaissance or a flash in the pan? I don’t want to tempt fate but the big picture is starting to look pretty good.  

The start of the season was undeniably awful. A run of losses including a defeat by Worcester who looked equally weak set many Falcons supporters thinking about seeing their doctors to see if they actually had depression or were just a bit out of sorts. There was a brief ray of hope away in Salford when a strong performance wrenched a thoroughly deserved draw against Sale, but the following week any positive thoughts were extinguished by a thorough drubbing at home to Saracens.

Two weeks of cup games provided some respite from the rigours of Premiership rugby, a chance to lick wounds and regroup. Nobody was in any doubt that the cup games now had to drop off the priority list, Premiership survival was at stake and nothing else really mattered. The time seemed to have been well spent as Boxing Day saw an acceptable first half away to Leicester, and with hindsight this was probably the turning point. There was obviously still a lot of work to do, but a competitive Falcons side seemed to sniff the air at Welford Road for the first time since that rainy day in Salford.

The New Year brought some cheer as Bath, with a host of internationals and rumours of a salary cap busting budget were sent back home defeated. The following week saw the Falcons in battle against fellow bottom feeders London Irish, stupidly giving the game away in a daft twenty minutes but recovering composure to almost take the win at the last minute.

Another two weeks of cup games bought time to work hard on the training pitch and settle in new recruit Andy Goode. Signing the class act in a 10 shirt has proved to be a wise move. With Delaney & TC in the Sick Bay it was just too much to heap all the pressure onto the shoulders of Craig Willis, despite him showing some determined and capable performances. Goode has not only brought some sublime tactics to our territorial game, he has been a steadying force throughout the squad. Those who had fears about his fitness need not have worried, that sort of class just comes naturally to his game.

The return to Premiership rugby saw a return to Kingston Park on the last day of January. This time it was Harlequins who were sent home defeated to the delight of a raucous Kingston Park crowd. Our first trip to the splendid new home of Wasps in Coventry followed, and those who made the journey were rewarded by seeing Falcons dominate against a strong Wasps team, only defeated by a single point at the end from the boot of Jimmy Gopperth, once of this parish.

Leicester were the next visitors to Kingston Park, and another dominant performance saw the Falcons win by an impressive 12 points. It was not just the win that was important however, it was the way they went about it. There is a confidence in the Falcons squad now that has been slowly developing since that game on Boxing Day at Welford Road. Much has been made of the impact of bringing in Andy Goode at the right time, and even I had to resist the urge to stick an ‘e’ on the end of the word ‘good’ at the end of my first paragraph. He has certainly had an important role to play, but the sort of team cohesion that we have seen getting better week after week takes a long time to perfect, and that process began even before he brought his skills to help things along. It is something that runs deep, from the front row of the pack to the rejuvenated Simon Hammersley at full back.

In many ways, the next game is the big one. Beating Saints will make a huge difference, not just in terms of our points on the table, but much more importantly the psychological aspect, showing that we are no longer part of the relegation struggle. If the team keep their composure and approach the game as they have done so since the beginning of the year then we are in with a good chance. We of course can help by getting to KP and bellowing our support for the full eighty. We have been told often enough by the players that it helps them enormously, the wins against Bath, Harlequins and Leicester all having been partly attributed to the noisy backing of the Kingston Park crowd. We need to give it everything that we have to lift the team once more, and if all goes well we will feel mighty good about it on Monday morning, and those sore throats will have been worth every decibel.

We are not out of the woods yet, but at least we can see sunshine.

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Out of the woods? (IP Logged)
17/02/2016 21:00
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Re: Out of the woods?
DB23 (IP Logged)
17/02/2016 21:50
Nice article, Monkey.

There is a glimmer of light peeking through the woods and that gives us hope.

I agree the psychological benefit of beating Saints could well define our season and how good would that feel to long-suffering Falcons fans.

It would be fantastic if KP was rocking on Sunday and we can all play a part in that. Cheers

Re: Out of the woods?
EastAnglianFalcon (IP Logged)
18/02/2016 06:50
I'd suggest that the next 3 games (Saints home, Gloucester away and Worcester home) are winnable and if we can pick up 5-8 points including beating Worcester that is likely to be enough for us.

Re: Out of the woods?
Cantabrian (IP Logged)
18/02/2016 09:01
Very enjoyable read Monkey. I was so miserable after the Sarries game but what a difference a couple of months can make!

Its a heck of a good feeling going to the Saints game knowing we can beat them and even if we fall short this time, we are definitely on our way back to Premiershio respectability.

Re: Out of the woods?
nursepete (IP Logged)
18/02/2016 10:43
I think Saints are beatable, noting that both London irish and Worcester have beaten them this season too, psychologically this would be a massive point to ourselves, the KP faithful and the rest of the Premiership that we are no pushovers and are a match now for anyone.

Re: Out of the woods?
lizard118 (IP Logged)
18/02/2016 10:54
Excellent writeup Monkey! Certainly agree with the psychological element of this one. Win this one, and I think the players will start believing they can go to Kingsholm and get a result there.

Then Worcester would just be about doing a professional job. They (Worcester ) have brought in two players I believe suggest they are beginning to panic.

François Houggard and Portgieter are both excellent signings for them but can't help the feeling that both are panic buys. I can't help they must both be on huge wages. But hey if pays off why not. Should be interesting to watch. I think Houggard will definitely make a huge difference to them.

Crucially, we have a settled team, a big squad, and we're now focused on getting results ourselves rather than relying on other teams to do us a favour ala last season.

We're definitely on the way up but not yet out of the woods yet. Win on Sunday, And I think a message will be sent that we're looking to challenge the midtable teams rather than worrying about relegation.

Re: Out of the woods?
DeceptivePace (IP Logged)
18/02/2016 10:58
Agree with everything you say Monkey. I'd add my twohapporth that the emergence of Nili Latu as an openside of genuine class is also an important factor in the upturn of fortunes.
Watching the George Smith masterclass as Wasps humped Sarries brought what Latu does for us into sharper focus. His work over the ball whilst good may not be as eyecatching as a Pocock, but his ability to take the ball up at first receiver and present it so it can be moved away quickly has been priceless. Much has been made on TV at the link he has forged with Goodey and how comfortable they seem to be already.
I can only hope that the story I'd heard about his injury at the end of the game on Friday isn't as bad as the 3 months rumoured. Few clubs have a 7 who can do what he does, never mind having one in reserve.

Re: Out of the woods?
lizard118 (IP Logged)
18/02/2016 11:33
That would be a Huge blow to the Falcons if those rumours about Latu are true Deceptive. He didn't look too good coming of and doubt very much we will be seeing him in the 7 shirt this weekend .
Our only other natural 7 in my opinion is Dan Temm but hasn't been playing. But he's always quick to the breakdown and effects turnovers but hasn't seen much game time, if, any in the premiership.
Will Welch has found his home at 6 and I think that's his natural position.
I would be tempted to move Wilson to 7 where he's just as effective and bring MOBO into the second row with Robinson.

Re: Out of the woods?
captainhaircut (IP Logged)
18/02/2016 12:04
Got to agree that we've been impressive these last few weeks and the coaching staff deserve credit for that. After the London Irish game, I felt remarkably confident of avoiding relegation considering the result. Irish were very poor and we only lost due to 10 minutes of madness. I wonder if the players also took a weird confidence from that game.

You could argue that we've been fortunate playing weakened sides in the last 3 games but you have to take advantage. Worcester and Irish both failed at the weekend against average bath and Saints sides.

One player I do think needs a shout out if Adam Powell. He's not as flashy as Harris but we look so more solid defensively and Socino looks much more comfortable. He's kind of like our Conrad Smith- does the simple things well and allows others to shine.

Re: Out of the woods?
aidanb (IP Logged)
18/02/2016 12:58
....You could argue that we've been fortunate playing weakened sides in the last 3 games but you have to take advantage. Worcester and Irish both failed at the weekend against average bath and Saints sides....

I would counter argue and say they aren't a weakened side as such, more of a team playing inside the salary cap - in spirit if you like - and thus are more like our full squad.

it is much more of a level playing field and thus we can compete

Re: Out of the woods?
AFalcon24 (IP Logged)
18/02/2016 17:26
Good read Monkey, if Latu is out for a while that is a massive blow just as bad as Sinoti Sinoti been out. smiling smiley

Re: Out of the woods?
lizard118 (IP Logged)
18/02/2016 17:33
When is the new TV deal effective from? Obviously not the same level but in footy it has allowed the small teams to buy good players hence allowing the so - called small teams to challenge the establishment ala Leicester City. I'd hope to see the same effect in rugger.

Re-Powell , I agree with you captain but not the other bits. For Bath the are a team very much in transition but the squad is still strong even by our standards.

Northampton are beginning to come to the boil and have beaten Harlequins and ok agree a weak Irish team, but they have a strong squad too by our standards.

I'd say they will be favourites on Sunday and we need another gear from Friday night just to get the right result.

Re: Out of the woods?
Leipziger (IP Logged)
19/02/2016 16:31
Good stuff Monkey, good read and thanks!

Re: Out of the woods?
Phil. (IP Logged)
19/02/2016 16:49
As a Saint just passing through (having a nose!), that's a fine read Monkey - good work sir!

Re: Out of the woods?
Kwa444 (IP Logged)
19/02/2016 17:31
Saints have blown hot and cold all season. The thrashed us but lost to Worcester and Irish. Other games they would have won last season they have lost.

For us it depends which Saints team turns up. On current form they are due a cold spell - here's hoping for one game anyway!!!

Re: Out of the woods?
Osric (IP Logged)
20/02/2016 10:54
They must be favourites but this is not a must win for us. Clearly it'd be great to get 4 points, but home games against Wuss, Irish and maybe Sale ( who have been tremendous recently) should see us staying up.

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