Not that they would give a damn in the West Country, but Rob Andrew once again beat a retreat from Gloucester, his senses reeling from another pounding. The Newcastle coach bravely ventured on to the pitch before the start to be greeted by a crescendo of booing from the Shed and that was the least of his problems.
Andrew had to grin and leg it after his side had conceded nine tries to a vintage passion play by Gloucester whose reward is an away semi-final in the Zurich Championship. After Gloucester had beaten Newcastle here 29-25 in December, there was uproar, Andrew accusing Olivier Azam of racial abuse following the dismissal for fighting of the Gloucester hooker and the Newcastle flanker Epi Taione. Azam was cleared by an inquiry and Andrew had to issue an apology. It was rammed down his throat yesterday.
An already Herculean task for Newcastle became infinitely harder when a distressed Jonny Wilkinson was carried off Kingsholm with an injury to his left ankle ligaments. The Lions and England stand-off had already been extremely active when he set off on a run and was collared, literally, by Junior Paramore.
The No 8 was being beaten for pace and he just managed to grab hold of Wilkinson's collar, spinning the No 10 on to the ground. He failed to get up, not from whiplash but from damage to his kicking leg. The tackle, if it can be called that, was nothing if not high but the referee Steve Lander did not penalise Paramore.
Nine tries to nil suggests that Wilkinson's departure in the 15th minute could scarcely have influenced events but he did have time to put in a sensational tackle on Paramore. Revenge, as Paramore, Azam and Gloucester would testify, is sweeter than cider.
Nigel Melville, still finding his feet at Kingsholm after his recent move from Wasps, said his team is beginning to achieve the right balance and here it was displayed in all its glory, forwards and three-quarters linking in an irresistible series of raids that finally swept the Falcons aside.
As for Newcastle, it was a particularly dispiriting end to the season and not least for some great servants who were playing their last game for the club, namely Pat Lam, Doddie Weir and Gary Armstrong. They surely deserved better than this but then Kingsholm has always been a cruel hunting ground.
In the absence of Wilkinson, the Newcastle captain, the hunting party was led by Phil Vickery and his increasingly rampant pack, and what started off as a fairly equal contest, developed into something of a duck shoot. Newcastle, who were not at full strength in either their front or back row, trailed only 3-0 when Wilkinson's departure caused a reshuffle in the back line with Dave Walder moving to stand- off and Liam Botham to fullback. …