As the Falcons wrapped up their season with a bonus point victory, one man who wrapped up his time at the club in particular style was Scrum Half Mike Blair.
As finales go, Mike Blair couldn’t have asked for a better one to his time at Newcastle Falcons; leading the team out as Harlequins, the Scotsman went on to score a try and collect man of the match in a five-try victory over Harlequins before leaving the pitch to a standing ovation from Falcons fans.
Speaking after the game, Blair said: “It’s a really pleasing way to go out, there’s a lot of positive stuff in the performance from everyone.
“There are a few negatives as well which we’ve seen in the past but against Quins we were able to push through those bad patches with some excellent play and a great way to finish my Newcastle career.”
The win comes at the end of a frustrating season which has seen the Falcons’ style of play progress in leaps and bounds, despite victories remaining frustratingly elusive at times.
“It’s certainly been frustrating but I think it’s really important to be positive as a club and to move forward. It’s a really tough league and we’ve progressed from where we were last year.
“I guess to an extent we were fortunate to have London Welsh in the league but we’ve progressed; we’re playing a better brand of rugby, the crowds that we’re getting in at KP are better so we are moving in the right direction.
“But it’s important to push that through and get some wins now because this season we’ve had a lot more opportunities than we had last year to win and that’s a forward step.”
Those growing crowds have been of particular note during the Falcons’ big games this season, never more so than on Saturday when the Kingston Park Stadium faithful were in full voice to give their team a rousing send off for the summer.
“The team feed off the crowd and the crowd feed off what the team are doing. The crowd have been excellent, they’re really vocal and you can hear them when you’re playing.
“I’ve got really clear memories of that Exeter game that we won at home, the last three or four minutes, and the Gloucester game we won at home, the noise!
“It’s a fantastic crowd and the team can build on that but on the flipside I think with the brand of rugby we’re going to play we’ve given the crowd something to cheer about this year.”
Despite taking a lead in the opening minutes of Saturday’s game, the Falcons went in at half time on the wrong end of the score line. However, the home side came back out fighting, scoring four tries in forty minutes to secure the victory.
“At half time we were just trying to stay composed about what we were trying to do I think. When we get frantic as a team it doesn’t help anyone and when we’re having a go at what’s going wrong it doesn’t help the team so I think we need to calm down in that situation.
“We were making individual errors and we knew we needed to tidy them up, if we had possession we knew we needed to put points on the board and that’s what we did.”
Led by Danny Care with Nick Evans and Marland Yarde amongst their try scorers, visiting Harlequins had brought with them a number of younger players, many of whom have already been identified as ones to watch across the league.
“They had a really exciting team but an inexperienced one. We said that physically we wanted to take them on and I don’t think we managed to do that in the first half because I think we had some good territory but we didn’t push that home.
“Second half we held onto the ball a bit better and were more effective in what we were trying to do which translated into the final score line.”
And to top off a spectacular final outing in a Falcons shirt for Blair, the former Scotland captain left the field to a standing ovation from the Falcons fan base.
“It kind of makes it a bit easier to end on a high when you play well in the last game, but the crowd here have been good to me.
“There have been some frustrating times, especially last year when the pitch was so heavy and the kicking game we were trying to play, I didn’t feel it really suited what I was trying to do. But this season it’s been a lot more positive and we’ve been trying to play in a different way. The pitch now means it’s a lot easier to kick on as well.
“I’m really pleased how the game went and really grateful for the send off the supporters gave me.”