The future is bright for rugby in the North East and Cumbria according to academy manager Mark Laycock, who saw his side claim a 30-20 victory against Gloucester at Kingston Park last night.
Watched from the terraces by director of rugby Dean Richards and his backroom staff, the Falcons A Team put in a spirited display with a sprinkling of class to defeat their West Country counterparts.
“I am very proud of the performance as we knew it would be a tough game right from the start,” said Laycock.
He added: “The most pleasing thing was that the boys stuck to the plan, and we put pressure on Gloucester making sure that we didn’t play too much rugby in our own half.
“We got off to a pretty good start with Suka Hufanga crossing for a try and we kept building from there to ensure that the score board was ticking over.”
An early Hufanga touchdown coupled with a Jamie Helleur score and the award of a penalty try was enough to seal the triumph for the Falcons.
And the academy chief insists some of his troops are now knocking on the door of first team rugby as the British and Irish Cup looms large.
Following this weekend’s trip to Moseley, the North East outfit embark on a two week break from the Championship as the British and Irish Cup takes centre stage.
“There has been a massive shift within the club since Dean came on board and there really is a chance for guys to get picked for the first team as a result of their form for the A Team,” said Hartlepool-born Laycock.
I’m sure we will see a couple more guys get their chance in the next couple of weeks after last night.
Paying tribute to the dominance of his inexperienced pack, Laycock singled out Ben Morris and Scott Wilson as stand-out performers.
He said: “We have a young group of forwards and they have been good for us this season, and I thought there were some excellent performances last night. Ben [Morris] in the back-row was fantastic, and Scott [Wilson] and James Hallam both scrummaged well.”
A deluge of heavy rain welcomed the two sides as they trotted out for the second period last night, with the Falcons’ game-plan disrupted by the elements.
“We came out for the second-half expecting to play some running rugby, and no one knew until we came back out onto the pitch that it was chucking down,” said Laycock.
“It was like last week all over again at Blaydon, but at least the boys knew what to expect,” he added.
Now Laycock and academy head coach James Ponton are plotting back-to-back Aviva A League North victories as the Falcons lock horns with Worcester Warriors in a fortnight.
Laycock said: “Worcester is a game where we want to go down there and win to round off our season. They haven’t had the greatest of seasons and they have a young side out like ourselves, but saying that it is always a difficult place to go and play a game of rugby.
“We’ll prepare as well as we can and we’ll head down there with the aim of building on our last two outings. We have a lot of self-belief and we know we can score some good tries so we are looking forward to the challenge.”
Following the climax of the A League, the under-18 league launches with Laycock revealing that the home games will be spread across the region.
“Around Christmas the under-18 league starts and we are aiming to play those games at venues across the whole region,” said Laycock.
“We also have a couple of friendlies lined up against Scotland under-16s and a couple of university sides so it will be exciting for the development of rugby in the North East and Cumbria.
“We have a couple of people working on our behalf in South Cumbria, so we have a nice group of people who are all working hard to deliver the same goals,” he added.