Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Plenty of Food for Thought for Bates

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Plenty of Food for Thought for Bates

Article excerpt

Byline: Nick Purewal's

Newcastle Falcons20 Cardiff Blues ........ 55 HANDING Cardiff the second-half Bread of Heaven, the Falcons fed the Blues four straight tries to dump themselves out of the European Challenge Cup.

Cardiff could not have prayed for a greater redeemer to guide them into the semi-finals than the guise Newcastle adopted in the third quarter. After handing the Blues two tries from the off in a wasteful first 15 minutes, only to blast back into contention at the break, the Falcons really should have learned their lesson. But rather than heed that early warning, they slipped well and truly off the pace after the turnaround, invoking memories of that spanking received at Saracens two weeks ago.

Kiwi full-back Ben Blair landed seven conversions and two penalties, to add to his try.

Prop Taufa'au Filise plundered two tries, and Casey Laulala, Martyn Williams, Blair, Jamie Roberts and Ceri Sweeney rounded off the rout.

Charlie Amesbury and Micky Young grabbed scores for the Falcons, with Gopperth landing both conversions and two from three penalty attempts - but the home side only made a fist of this contest in the second quarter.

Steve Bates does not anticipate this thumping affecting Newcastle's imminent return to the vital Guinness Premiership survival dogfight - but that seems wishful thinking. No professional team and no professional player takes a beating with anything other than huge frustration, so Bates' first job today will be the same as it was after that Saracens thumping - to wash away the bad memories, but force his men to learn their lessons.

Poor fringe defence and another host of unforced errors handed Cardiff this clash, the Falcons once again conceding the tactical kicking battle and gifting their visitors far too much possession and field position.

The Falcons will avoid the drop, and this competition really remains a sideshow, but that is hardly the point - this still represented Newcastle's last Heineken Cup qualification chance, and now they face another season without top-level European action. …

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