Fly-half Joel Hodgson says there will be no let-up in Newcastle Falcons’ intensity when they welcome French visitors FC Grenoble to Kingston Park Stadium on Sunday.
The Falcons’ last home outing brought a 19-14 victory over Bristol which propelled them into the top half of the Aviva Premiership, although Hodgson was among the many frustrated by their failure to kick on from a 19-0 half-time lead.
He said: “We have to make a real statement.
“We want to make Kingston Park a fortress, and to a certain extent we have done that. We allowed the Leicester game to slip past us by a single point, but other than that we are two from two here this season. We want to put teams to the sword here, and even though we started well against Bristol we shut up shop a bit. When we get those good starts we need to keep playing, do it for the full 80, and that is the thought process for this weekend.
“What was good in that first half against Bristol was the fact we played with tempo, moved the ball from side to side, put ourselves into the right areas when we needed to and then played with ambition when we were down there. During that second half the intention to play in the right areas was still there, however we shut up shop in terms of our ambition and moved more towards route-one runners. A big Bristol pack lined us up and knocked us to the floor, so it’s just about keeping that ambition and playing what we see. Even if we get a few tries up we have to keep going, and hopefully our fans will see that difference.”
Hodgson was part of the Newcastle side which fell 45-0 in last Friday’s European Challenge Cup opener, the fly-half stating: “It was a great opportunity for a lot of the boys coming through to play against the likes of Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb and all those guys. For people who watched the game rather than just following the score, to be 19-0 down at half-time was a difficult pill to swallow given how we had played in the first half.
“Their three tries came from bits of pure genius from their stars, and we really felt we were in it. We were a score away from turning it around, but when Ospreys went up a level we couldn’t really hang on. The floodgates opened, which is disappointing, but we have to take what we can from it and apply those lessons against Grenoble. The big one for us is not to lose our defensive concentration, because our skill level was actually OK for large parts of it.”
Up against a Grenoble side currently placed second-bottom in the French Top 14, Hodgson said: “Grenoble are fighting for survival in the Top 14, their mind-set may be a bit different because of that and their principal focus will be on that.
“French teams generally pride themselves on a very strong home record, and there was a real sense of shock for us when we saw their defeat at home against Lyon. I can sympathise because I have been in those relegation battles with Newcastle, but we have a real foundation now and it is freeing our minds to be a lot more positive about our rugby.
“There is a real ambition and desire to impress in the European Challenge Cup, not just because it’s a cup in its own right, but also that twin aim of earning a Premiership place. You have got to be confident. We have a great squad, we are doing well this season and we love playing on our home track. We love throwing the ball around, we are looking forward to this game and are hopeful we can show what we need to show.”
Having rejoined his hometown club this summer following a season with both Northampton and Yorkshire Carnegie, he added: “I am absolutely loving being back. I have learnt a lot during my time away and it is great to see the club going places. Having 14 Aviva Premiership points after six games is not a bad start, it could have been more if we more accurate in a few areas but I am loving the chance to play for the Falcons again and am keen to push on.
“The depth of our squad is very encouraging, it is really competitive in every position and everyone is pushing each other. The quality and intensity of training is totally another level from where it was two years ago, and the thing for us is to be more consistent about how we put that into our games. Do that and we will put teams to the sword.”
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