It seems a little bit premature to be discussing relegation, but when it comes to the Aviva Premiership this season, only two sides at the moment look as though they’ll be scrapping to stay in the competition.
Thumped by Northampton last weekend at Franklin’s Gardens, letting in six tries, Newcastle currently sit five points adrift at the bottom of the Premiership, having conceded 22 tries in the seven rounds so far this season. Those are the statistics, but the truth is that the Falcons have actually played some great rugby at times, against Leicester at home where they lost out at the death, and away at London Irish before fading away, whilst their one win so far came in a clinical performance against Wasps at home. Fail to pick up a win tonight however, and they could find themselves 9 or 10 points away from Worcester, and safety, in the table.
Five defeats so far this season for the Warriors, but they haven’t shipped many points, the majority of their matches proving to be tight encounters. Two wins at home, on the opening day of the season against Sale and over a weakened Northampton outfit, mean that the development of Sixways as a home fortress seems to be underway, though they have also lost narrowly to Harlequins and Wasps at home despite dominating long passages of play. One concern is their attack, where with 6 tries, no has scored fewer this season.
What To Expect:
A very gritty encounter. Given that both teams have scored 14 tries combined this season, which is less than Leicester, London Irish, Sale, Saracens and Harlequins have done in the same amount of time, it might not be a thriller in terms of points. Newcastle know that they have to win against Worcester at home, because the Warriors will be desperate to do the same when both sides meet next at Sixways in the return fixture. The boots of Andy Goode and Jimmy Gopperth should dominate.
Head to Head: Jimmy Gopperth v Joe Carlisle
If Newcastle didn’t have Gopperth, how much would they struggle? Last year’s top points scorer with 230, the former Blues player is one of the best in the business when it comes to kicking, and Newcastle will need him to take every opportunity available tonight. Youngster Joe Carlisle has been part of the Warriors set up for a number of years, and has edged out Goode in terms of selection for this week’s match. The onus will be on him to match and better Gopperth on the kicking front if Worcester are to win up north.
All Eyes On: Corne Uys & Craig Gillies
One of the smartest bits of business over the off-season, Newcastle did well to bring over Uys from the Cheetahs for this campaign. A robust centre with serious ability to break the gain-line, he will make Dale Rasmussen and Alex Grove work very hard in defence. His combination in midfield with Jamie Helleur has real potential, but they need to start clicking quickly.
Meanwhile one of the scariest looking guys in the league, as well as one of the tallest, Craig Gillies will make his 250th appearance for the Warriors up at Kingston Park tonight, a big achievement for the second row. Already the Warriors leading appearance holder of all time, how about a try for the big man on his special occasion? Unlikely, he’s only scored one throughout his entire career, for Richmond against Leicester back in 1997!
Last Fixture: Worcester 13-0 Newcastle, Sixways, 26/2/10
Weather: Light rain, not too windy. 8 degrees.
Kick-Off: 19:45 (on ESPN)
Never easy to pick between two strugglers, a lot will rely on the platforms both sides create up front. Combine that with both kickers, given that there’s little wind, it may just be a case of who hits their mark better. Really tough call, but based on recent performances, Warriors by 3.
by Ben Coles