Controlled performance delivers points in face of mother nature and determined visitors
Academy head coach James Ponton praised his team’s performance in Monday night’s Aviva A League after overcoming both the weather and the spirited efforts of Leicester Tigers to take a comfortable 24-3 win.
Playing in constant heavy rain and high winds, the Falcons established forward dominance in the game and used it to great effect, outscoring the Tigers by four tries to none and setting up a crucial match away to Gloucester, at the end of March.
Speaking post match, Ponton said: “The weather conditions were atrocious but I think the boys did really well and put in a real spirited performance. The played some good rugby out there and it was really good to take a five point win, we couldn’t ask for more.”
The team was again made up of a combination of experienced heads and youthful experience, which the former Yorkshire Carnegie and West Hartlepool man says is instrumental in allowing his academy charges to seize first team chances when they arise.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the young players, some of these boys were still in school last year and they are running around with guys with premiership and international experience out there. That’s something that I think Dean does really well, it gives you a good blend and it brings on those youngsters on more than any environment that I have been in before.”
“I think it’s something that if you can give those guys a lot of knowledge and experience every quickly that you can’t deliver as a coach and it really speeds their development up.” With the pack earning their corn with powerful scrums, mauls and an abrasive edge, the starting pack and replacements at the front of those praised by the coach post match.
“Our front row did really well today. The three that were on in the first half did really well, Al Rogers played at tighthead, which isn’t his normal position and went very well and Ben Harris is getting stronger every week as he learns his trade and develops.”
“Rob Hawkins brought a lot of experience to the game which was needed in that sort of weather and Santiago Socino came on and made an immediate impact.”
“He was a back row this time last year and he is transforming into a hooker and is making a really good job of it, he is powerful in the loose and carries the ball really well, which you saw for his try but he is working really hard to develop his set piece as well.”
Another player to shine through the gloom was young fly half Brett Connon, who started at fullback before taking over the Fly Half berth from Andy Goode with no signs of being phased.
“Brett is a very confident young man with a lot of ability. He talks well amongst the others and again it’s the blend of the youth and experience. He’ll take a massive amount from Andy Goode and we’ve told all of our young fly halves to stick very closely to him and learn as much as they can. From what I’ve seen of Andy, he is very willing to help those guys out.”
With one game left for the Falcons, away to Gloucester on March 28th the team still hold the keys to qualifying for the semi finals for a second season in succession which Ponton explains: “It puts us in with a shot of going through to the semi finals which we did last year. Gloucester are top of the group and will be strong and it will come to the team on the day and we will have some good guys to chose from and hopefully a semi final place will happen.”