Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Andrew Always True to Falcons

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Andrew Always True to Falcons

Article excerpt

Byline: By Alan Hedley

Even in the darkest days of December and January, Rob Andrew never considered walking away from Newcastle.

The Falcons were six points adrift at the bottom of the Premiership and heading for relegation and Andrew, as Director of Rugby, decided it was time for a more hands-on approach.

Head coach Steve Bates left and Andrew and Aussie World Cup prop Andrew Blades set about seeking survival.

"I never considered walking away. It was never discussed and it isn't something I will ever do lightly," said Andrew.

"I think everyone knows what this club means to everybody here - particularly to Dave Thomson and to John Parkinson and myself. We have a very clear vision of what we are trying to achieve."

But Newcastle have been through the wringer. And the signs were there pretty much from the word go.

The departure of the famous five - Inga Tuigamala, Pat Lam, Doddie Weir, Gary Armstrong and George Graham - and no replacements of any experience were highlighted when the Falcons lost their pre-season games to Borders and Edinburgh.

Worse still, they lost David Walder with a broken leg which left them exposed at fly-half and missing Walder's undoubted ability at full-back as well.

Nevertheless, an opening Premiership win against Wasps seemed to indicate things were not all that bad but it was eight penalties from the boot of Jonny Wilkinson and successive defeats by Northampton, Gloucester and Leicester - a real mauling at Welford Road - that set the alarm bells ringing.

From that point it was all downhill with only a few moments against Grenoble and Treviso in the Parker Pen and the problems at fly-half were highlighted when Newcastle signed Earl Va'a on a month's loan as cover for Wilkinson - it didn't work and Wilkinson's shoulder injury made the situation more nightmarish by the day as Newcastle plunged to the bottom of the table.

Cue the cavalry as Andrew signed Springboks Mark Andrews and Warren Britz, All Black Mark Mayerhofler, and Super 12 back row Craig Newby and the Great Escape commenced.

Newcastle took points out of every one of their last eight games bar the final match at Bath where defeat left them 10th in the table and one point out of the Wildcard Play-offs, but staying in the Premiership was reward enough in a season when the club also officially opened the pounds 12m first phase of their new 10,000 capacity stadium.

"There's no doubt these last six months has been the toughest six months I have ever experienced," said Andrew.

"It was pretty tough just before the Halls pulled out - it was pretty tough thinking that whole thing is going under but the combination of the form on the field, allied to what we'd seen being built in front of us in terms of the stadium and seeing the two going in the opposite direction instead of the same direction, that was hard to bear. …

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