Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Falcons Get an Official Warning

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Falcons Get an Official Warning

Article excerpt

Byline: By Duncan Madsen

Newcastle Falcons were today given a timely warning of what to expect when they run out to face Perpignan in Saturday's crunch pool five Heineken European Cup clash at the rugby cauldron otherwise known as the Stade Aime Giral.

Of the current Newcastle squad, only Jonny Wilkinson has had previous experience of what it is like for a visiting team at Perpignan ( and he was only on the bench as an 18-year-old `apprentice' for Newcastle's epic 1997 European Shield victory and never got out onto the pitch.

However, Northumberland referee Dave Pearson was the man in the middle when Perpignan thrashed Newport Gwent Dragons 32-9 in their last Heineken Cup clash.

He warned the Falcons today what to expect, not just from the massive Perpignan side but also from their fanatical supporters.

The 38-year-old Premiership ref, who hails from Stakeford but now lives in Ashington, said: "The Stade Aime Giral makes Gloucester's Kingsholm and its famous Shed look like the Teddy Bears' Picnic.

"The intensity both on and off the pitch from 13,000 Catalan supporters is simply incredible and, while it is a magnificent place to referee and play, it is not for the faint-hearted.

"I was lucky in that I had already run touch there so I knew what to expect but you have got to realise the Catalan people think they should be independent and not part of France. It is a case of `us against the rest of the world', so the Falcons had better be ready for a real battle."

As it happened Pearson, in his third season as a Premiership ref and his third as a full-time professional, did not have too much trouble controlling the Perpignan v Newport match, although he readily concedes he was lucky.

He said: "Perpignan scored three tries in 15 minutes early on and it was game over. Oh happy days!

"The opening quarter of Saturday's game will be crucial because if Perpignan are allowed to get off to a fast start they are capable of running riot.

"However, when a French team goes behind at home the crowd starts to get on their backs and they can go to pieces, so if Newcastle can score early and pressure Perpignan from the start they have a chance. …

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