John Wells reflects upon the Falcons' pre-season weekend following his trip to Doncaster on Saturday.
Head coach John Wells was reflective but optimistic following a weekend that saw his squad suffer two defeats in simultaneous matches against Doncaster Knights and Rotherham Titans.
Although disappointed with the outcomes of both games, Wells remained focused on the bigger picture, commenting: "This is why you have pre-season; to try different combinations and patterns and to see what works."
Wells, whose move from forwards coach to head coach was one of a number of changes at Kingston Park over the summer, was keen to emphasise the importance of the pre-season period.
"We have a lot of new players at the club and in the case of some guys Saturday was their first run out for a long time. We can't lose sight of the purpose of pre-season, which is to get the guys playing together and to try things out."
With eight new signings amongst the 47 Falcons players in action over the weekend, the day offered a good opportunity for Wells and his coaching team to see how possible playing combinations worked in practice in a competitive environment.
"The good thing is that everyone has now had a chance to play at least one game – two in some cases – and that's important for us to see how the squad fits together. But one of the biggest priorities of pre-season is also to get rid of any rustiness, and we've hopefully sorted that by now.
"Selection is something that will be discussed early in the week and the Edinburgh game this Friday will no doubt feature guys from both games."
Saturday saw Wells join the travelling Falcons contingent in heading down to Doncaster to watch the match against Doncaster Knights at Castle Park. Despite a strong attacking performance which saw them score three tries, the Falcons found themselves on the wrong end of a 40-26 defeat to the South Yorkshire side.
"Of course we were disappointed with the result, but I think it's important to remember that the team we took down there hadn't played together before. There were some very late additions to our team because of the change in fixture," said Wells, referring to the late cancellation of an Under 23s match against Leeds on Friday night and subsequent addition of a replacement game against Doncaster being played concurrently with the Falcons home fixture against Rotherham Titans.
"It's fair to say that the guys hadn't had time to gel as a team before playing the match. In comparison we played a strong Donacster side who had clearly played together for a long time, and that cohesion showed in their game.
"The good points in Doncaster were that we line-outed well; we had three tries which started from 10 metres out and although Doncaster defended well, we were able to pick up three very good tries, which was encouraging. For much of the game we scrummaged well too, which was good to see.
"For me, Dom Barrow stood out among the forwards – he picked up a try very early into the game and continued to put in a strong performance from there."
Wells was particularly balanced in relfecting on the downside's of the team's performance. "Our attacking and defensiveness were lacking in places, but a lot of that was down to our lack of time together, and at this stage of the season you'd expect that."
With one more match to play before kicking off their Aviva Premiership season, the Falcons' head coach remains optimistic about the season ahead.
"We have next weekend's game against Edinburgh to work on the things we picked up from the weekend and to get more practice in, and we're already starting to work towards the Leicester Tigers game.
"There are always some areas to build on but I think we're making progress and there are a lot of positives that we can take from the weekend too."
Newcastle Falcons will play their final game of the 2014 pre-season campaign against Edinburgh Rugby in Hawick this weekend. The game kicks off at 7.45 with adult tickets priced at only £10, click here for more information or to get yours.