Dean Richards did not hide his disappointment following Newcastle Falcons’ 39-22 home defeat to Wasps on Saturday, despite admitting his wider satisfaction at finishing fourth in the Aviva Premiership.
The Falcons will travel to Exeter Chiefs in the semi-finals on Saturday May 19 after their first home defeat in five and a half months, a sold-out Kingston Park Stadium witnessing a slow start before a manic finish which saw Richards’ men briefly threatening the most remarkable of comebacks.
The Falcons boss said: “They’ve got some gifted footballers, but at the same time we gave them time and space. If you do that against a quality side like Wasps they’ll make you pay, and it cost us. We didn’t start playing until 50 minutes in, and by then the game was gone.”
Searching for the rasons behind his side’s slow start, Richards said: “It was the most relaxed changing room I’ve seen this season before the match, and I think that probably told with the manner in which we started the game.
“Some of the boys maybe thought there was nothing to play for, which obviously wasn’t the case, and I think that mind-set cost us. After 50 minutes we decided to give it a go, we played some good rugby and got to within two scores.
“When you’re chasing the game you maybe push it a little bit too far, which is what we did, and Wasps got the score we needed. It is what it is, because we had to chase it, but there’s a lot of time between now and the semi-final and we’ve got some things we need to sort out.”
Having made eight changes for Saturday’s sold-out clash, Richards hinted at further switches for the semi-final in a fortnight’s time.
He said: “We’ve got a few boys injured, a few boys out, and it will be a different team that plays in the semi-final. The options going into that game will be totally different, and we’ve got to step our game up after today.
“We’ll have some of our injured boys back by then, because a few of the guys were very close but just missed out on this one, and we’ll put in place a game plan which we think can beat Exeter. We beat them at home in January but of course we know they’re an outstanding side.”
Stepping back from the disappointment of the home loss, he added: “Taking a wider view of the season we’re of course delighted to finish fourth, but it’s hard to genuinely feel that delight when we’ve lost a game in the manner in which we did today.
“We’ll learn from today, and what has gone before this game isn’t relevant as we move forward. It’s your current form that counts, and we’re falling short on that at the moment.
“We’re quite comfortable playing away from home and we’ve shown we can win on the road, so in that sense going to Exeter doesn’t faze us. We do appreciate Exeter are a good side and it will be a hard game, but we’re going down there to win it.”
Ticket details for the 3.30pm kick-off at Sandy Park on Saturday May 19 will be announced shortly.