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August 26, 2006

Newcastle Falcons 19 - 8 Glasgow Warriors

Friendly match played at Kingston Park on Friday August 25th 2006 | 2 comments

Graeme Morrison went over for the Glasgow try 2006 Imac Images
Glasgow never threatened a repeat of last week's victory over Newcastle last night however Sean Lineen's men left the north-east with a welcome boost of confidence.

However, if the Scots had wanted a severe test prior to launching into a new Magners League campaign, they got it and quite a bit more on this trip to Newcastle. It started, however, before they even reached the dark skies above Tyneside with Alastair Kellock, their skipper, and scrum-half Sam Pinder suffering injuries.

Pinder's was a groin problem while Kellock turned his ankle in training and though he travelled in the hope of it easing the management decided this was not the time to take risks with their new captain. Graeme Beveridge stepped in at scrum-half, Dan Turner was promoted from the bench to lock and Jon Petrie took over the captaincy, providing an early glimpse of the growing depth in the Scots' squad.

That however was merely the beginning of Glasgow's misery. The game was only five minutes old the rain having eased slightly, when Petrie took a bad head knock in a tackle inside the Newcastle half. It looked ominous as he lay grounded under a pile of bodies and the Glasgow physios summoned additional help, but after a few minutes he was able to walk off with the medics and even returned to the fray on the half hour.

But just two more minutes had passed when Newcastle swept into the lead. A steepling high ball from Toby Flood, the England under-21 fly-half who started the game at inside-centre but swapped regularly with Jonny Wilkinson, brought pressure reigning down on Francisco Leonelli, the Glasgow full-back. The ball was lost and the Falcons quickly recycled and created a three-on-one overlap on the left. Thom Evans held out as long as he could before stopping Wilkinson, but the covering Dan Parks was not able to deny Anthony Elliott from a metre out.

Glasgow needed to dig deep as the hosts, buoyed by a small but vociferous crowd, but to their credit they managed to put up a brick wall in the face of a sustained period of attack from the Falcons. Wilkinson opted against kicking for goal with three consecutive penalties, following the pattern of last week's match at Burnbrae, where it was clear that Newcastle's driving lineout needed some work. But try as they might the Glasgow defence again held firm, solid organisation, hard, gritty tackling and tireless effort combining to contain the black-and-white swarm.

It did not come without cost however as Justin Va'a paid the penalty for a series of offside infringements; Donnie Macfadyen, the openside flanker escaped with warnings but referee Dave Pearson sent the Samoan prop to the sinbin 18 minutes in.

Va'a was back when Newcastle scored their second try another overlap being created, this time on the right with seven minutes of the half remaining and though Mike Roberts halted Joe Shaw with some vigour the Newcastle wing was quick to pick up and dive into the right-hand corner.

Glasgow continued to work hard and strived to impose their own patterns on the game, Andy Newman and Euan Murray putting their bulk to good use in forward thrusts and Fergus Thomson and Evans trying to spark the attack. The hooker discovered why Wilkinson is a renowned figure however as only a minute after the England stand-off had lengthy treatment to a leg knock he duly smashed Thomson a distance backwards in a trademark tackle which had the home crowd in raptures and Thomson counting the stars above his head.

Parks managed to secure some reward for the Glasgow effort with a penalty towards the end of the half but the Scots' story of woe returned just minutes after the interval when Leonelli was forced off the field with what appeared to be a pulled hamstring. Newcastle continued in the same vein in the second half using the sizeable figures of Andy Buist, the lock, flanker Mike McCarthy and the ever alert Wilkinson to batter into the heart of the Glasgow defence. But still eschewing penalty kicks at goal they found the scoreboard impossible to move.

Glasgow stunned the home side just before the hour mark when Thomson sparked a great counter attack over 50 metres and though the support wasn't immediate Glasgow did recycle the ball well and, with the Falcons defence at sixes and sevens, the ball was fed wide to Graeme Morrison and the powerful centre held off a despairing tackle to cross in the left hand corner and cut the deficit to just four points.

Glasgow coach Lineen stuck by his plans to introduce young talent and Jamie Hunter and Ruaridh Jackson replaced half-backs Beveridge and Parks respectively. The hosts had lost Wilkinson at half time and also replaced Hall Charleton with James Grindal at the break and the plethora of changes added to the disjointed and somewhat frenetic play of the final quarter.

Newcastle will again point to their decision to ignore kickable penalties as a reason for the game staying tight, but they had countless driving lineouts in which to make a mark and ran aground every time on the rocks of the Glasgow defence. Only a late try from No 8 Phil Dowson, converted by man of the match Flood, ensured victory.

There may not have been much to write about in the Glasgow attack, bar the brief bursts which brought the points, but considering the embarrassing reverse suffered at this ground a year ago there is much the Scottish side can take from their two encounters with a strong English team.

Report from The Scotsman

Referee Dave Pearson
Attendance 2,884
Justin Va'a
Fergus Thomson
Euan Murray
Andy Newman
Alastair Kellock
Steve Swindall
Donnie Macfadyen
Jon Petrie
Sam Pinder
Dan Parks
Mike Roberts
Andrew Henderson
Graeme Morrison
Thom Evans
Francisco Leonelli
Glasgow used the following replacements
Backs Colin Shaw, Hefin O'Hare, Jamie Hunter, Ruaridh Jackson, Scott Barrow
Forwards Kevin Tkachuk, James Eddie, Dan Turner, Andy Wilson, John Barclay, Eric Milligan
Dan Parks Penalty
Graeme Morrison Try 
Posted by Big Blue on August 26, 2006 04:04 PM | Reply to this comment

The last paragraph of the report reflects the thoughts of those in attendance last night. Last season we would have lost a game like that by thirty points. There does, however, appear to be a great deal more substance to the side this season. We do, though,have to get more ball wide to our two wings; both are extremely quick over the ground.

One final comment. Referee Pearson was quite dreadful. Glasgow had one player carded for repeated offside infringments. We could accept that. His decision, though, to merely speak to the Newcastle captain when one of his side was guilty of a blatant stamp after Newcastle had been awarded a penalty, was quite outrageous.

Posted by BigRab on August 26, 2006 06:40 PM | Reply to this comment

Don't forget the poor touch judging as well. An appointment at Vision Express is needed for the officails. But sadly not much can be done for Blind Eye syndrome.

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