Newcastle Falcons’ 11-game unbeaten streak has seen a homegrown flavour on and off the field, with ‘Blaydon Races’ providing the post-match soundtrack to the season.
Falcons players and coaches have been joining together to belt out the North East favourite from the sanctuary of their dressing room after each victory, prop-forward Sam Lockwood calling it the ‘highlight of the week’ as his side prepares to host Jersey Reds on Saturday.
“We sing the Blaydon Races after a win, and we’ve heard it every week so far this season,” said the forward, who spent much of his childhood in the Middlesbrough area.
“The boys have made sure they all know the words because nobody wants to get caught out, and it’s always good to hear some of the foreign accents singing it!
“It’s honestly the highlight of the week, getting back into a warm changing room and singing Blaydon Races with your mates.
“It’s the bit that most people probably don’t see, but that first 15 minutes in the changing room after a victory is what you live for as a sportsman. To have worked so hard together all week, put together a piece of work and be able to enjoy it collectively with a song in the changing room – that’s what it’s all about.”
Lockwood and his Falcons side sit six points clear at the top of the league after six rounds, and with a home cup quarter-final already secured going into Saturday’s final group game. Still with top seeding to play for, the prop has found room for improvement despite their winning streak.
“Results-wise it has been excellent, and you can’t ask much more than going undefeated from that perspective,” he said.
“Performance-wise, there have been a few of the games, especially away from home, where we’ve felt we weren’t winning by enough points and weren’t being as convincing as we want to be.
“We’ve had some tough games in which we’ve pulled through, which shows really good heart and grind from the team, and we’re on with the job of trying to make further improvements to our game.
“Personally speaking, I’ve had a bit of a slow start to the season. I haven’t played in too many of the Championship fixtures so this run of cup games has been a bit of a blessing to get me in playing and trying to find a bit of form for when we return to the league matches.
“As a club, though, we’re going in the right direction of trying to fulfil our ambition of getting back up to the Premiership.”
Up against one of his former clubs this Saturday, Lockwood looks back with fondness when asked about his time at Jersey, the Channel island club which has helped nurture many a top-flight performer.
“I loved my time in Jersey,” said the 31-year-old, who has made 51 appearances in his three and a half seasons with the Falcons.
“It came at the right time for me in terms of where I was in my career, but when I started to settle down and have a family I needed to get back to the mainland.
“The move to Newcastle came at the perfect time for me and I think of Newcastle as home now, but I’ll always have fond memories of Jersey and I’m really grateful for everything the club did for me.
“They’re one of the better packs in this division so Saturday will be a great chance to really test ourselves, and in recent seasons they’ve also developed their other threats like in the half-backs and the three-quarters. They have exciting backs who play a bit of rugby, and when you combine that with their pack they’re a side with multiple threats.”
Hopeful that home advantage can once again see his side hitting their straps, Lockwood said: “The surface here would be one factor because we like to play a fast game, and having a passionate home crowd behind you is also obviously a boost.
“The guys who follow us away from home are fantastic and they cover a serious distance to get behind the lads, but in terms of sheer numbers you have to generate your own energy and momentum when you’re playing on the road.
“That’s part of the focus for the squad, making our away performances more closely mirror how we play at home, and we want to put the fear into teams when we play away as well as when we’re at Kingston Park. We’re not quite doing that yet, even though we’re still winning, and we want to start blowing teams away when we’re on the road.”
Explaining his team’s preparation, Lockwood said: “Rather than focusing so much on the opposition we’ve been looking mainly at ourselves, and what we can do better.
“It’s all about trying to drive a Premiership standard through everything we’re doing during the week and on a game day, so that we’re not behind the curve if we achieve our aim of being promoted this season.
“When we play, we play fast. We realise the ball-in-play time in the Championship isn’t as high as it is in the Premiership, but when it is in play we need to be the ones playing with the highest tempo.”
Tickets for Saturday’s 2pm kick-off against Jersey are on sale by clicking here, calling 0871 226 6060 or visiting the ticket office in person.