It has been a long time between drinks, but Dean Richards wore a smile as wide as the Tyne as he got the beers in for Newcastle Falcons’ supporters and players following Saturday’s 18-13 victory over Gloucester at Kingsholm.
The result was Newcastle’s first Aviva Premiership away win in two years, the director of rugby keen not to let the moment pass without toasting the supporters and players who have stuck by the club during some difficult times on the road.
“We hadn’t won away in the league for two years, we had come close on so many occasions during that time and for one reason or another not quite done it,” said Richards, whose hour propping up the bar at the Kingsholm Inn must have cost a pretty penny.
“I just don’t to wait another two years for our next one!”
The air of celebration was tempered by realism for a side who have long struggled away from Kingston Park Stadium, but on the back of an incredibly disciplined defensive performance and a new ruthlessness in attack, the Falcons boss said: “We would have lost that game last year.
“The mistakes we were making last season and down at Bath two weeks ago, we weren’t making today. It just goes to show we are quite combative and we will tackle our hearts out, and providing we take our chances when they come we should be competitive with most teams.
“Everybody put their body on the line, without exception, and that was the nice thing about it. Even when Gloucester did make a line-break our scramble defence was there. We soaked up their pressure at times, we took our opportunities when we got them and that was the difference. We looked at the challenges Gloucester would pose and said we should be able to accommodate them. We stood strong, and in some respects it feels like a step forward.
“In terms of winning away it has broken the duck that everyone has talked about for the past two years. It’s one win so we’re not going overboard about it. We have won two out of four this season and should have beaten Leicester last weekend. We feel like we’re making progress, but in some ways the boys are disappointed because we know we should have had three wins, not two.”
Richards added: “You never know what’s going to happen. I’ve been around this game long enough to know that a bad run of injuries, decisions, performances or whatever can very quickly change things. When the luck doesn’t go your way it’s about how you react.
“The beauty within this squad now is that there is a winning mentality. We won all our pre-season games, we beat Sale in our league opener and even after a disappointing day at Bath and a one-point loss to Leicester, we have stayed on track. The players understand what it takes to win, tactically and mentally. Last year we would have lost this game, but we have a steel about us now and appreciation of what you need to do to get over that finish line in tight games.
“We have Worcester next week, the lads will be switched-on for that and we will see what happens.”
Revealing a change in travel and accommodation plans prior to Saturday’s victory, the director of rugby said: “Whether it was a placebo effect or not, I don’t know, but I said to the boys that we’ve too long been going to the same hotel, travelling the same way, and I just wanted to break the habit. So we got the train down rather than the bus, the boys were mixing with the public, for me it is more interesting and you have a bit more freedom to move about.
“It’s probably stretching it too far to attribute the result to that one thing, but the players can at least see that we are looking at every detail and every opportunity to change our away record. We stayed in a different hotel, we felt we would give it a go and maybe for a couple of the players it just mentally freshened them up from the usual routine. Who knows?”