'Forgotten club' Falcons post a reminder of European potential

Newcastle 14 Worcester 3
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The Independent Online

A match that was rendered undistinguished by appallingly difficult conditions was nevertheless massively significant, according to Newcastle's director of rugby, Steve Bates.

Having won at Bath last week, it was critical for the Falcons' ambitions of playing European rugby next season to follow up with another victory, claimed Bates. "In the past we've been a little bit prone to doing something like Bath, and then sitting back on our heels, but we've talked all week about being single-minded and being mentally right, and our approach was spot-on, especially in the first half," he said.

Newcastle's progress this season also highlights their lack of international representation, added Bates. Like first-team coach Alan Tait earlier in the week, he suggested players such as Jon Golding, Rob Vickerman and Tim Swinson should all be on Martin Johnson's mind for England duty.

"There are some players who might feel we are the forgotten club," he said, and should England's chairman of selectors be requiring a second opinion, Bates received solid backing from club captain Carl Hayman, under whose influence and tutelage the likes of Golding and Swinson are clearly thriving.

"I haven't seen too many selectors around up here, but if we can somehow push guys like Jonny Golding into the England set-up it would be really good for the club," said the former All-Black. "They obviously have to be persistent, but they have the potential to be in there."

The Newcastle forwards were on top from the start. With the wind gusting so strongly, it was impossible to throw long. Even the Warriors' usually efficient line-out suffered, but Newcastle's use of the ball was poor, mainly thanks to stand-off Jimmy Gopperth, who failed miserably to come to terms with conditions with which, as a New Zealander, he cannot have been entirely unfamiliar.

It took scrum-half Micky Young to engineer a breakthrough with a long, low kick from the base of the scrum which Worcester could only ground over their own line. The pressure that resulted saw Brent Wilson, Tane Tu'ipulotu and Mark Sorenson all go close before Rob Vickers finally burrowed over close to the corner flag.

Keeping the ball in hand was usually the right call, and by so doing Newcastle forced their frustrated opponents into giving away penalties. Gopperth, from close range, kicked one on either side of half-time to stretch the Falcons' lead, but the second period was a more equal affair, as Worcester improved and Newcastle became more cautious. While they never looked to be in serious danger of being pegged back, Bates felt it was important his players learned to have confidence in their game.

Newcastle: Try: Vickers; Penalties Gopperth (3). Worcester: Penalty Walker

Newcastle: Amesbury; Williams (Bobo, 56), Vickerman, Tu'ipulotu, Biggs; Gopperth, Young; Golding (Ward, 59), Vickers (Walker, 66), Hayman(capt), Hudson, Sorenson (Swinson 50), B Wilson (Afu, 30), Welch, Levi.

Worcester: MacRae; Gear, Grove, Tuitupou, Benjamin; Walker, Powell (Arr, 77); C Black (A Black, 70), Lutui (Forte, 54), Taumoepeau, Rawlinson, Gillies (Bowley, 54), Wood, Abbott (Talei, 54), Sanderson.

Referee: S Davey (England)