Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Falcon Facing a New Enemy; Hogg Feeling the Heat of His First Relegation Battle

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Falcon Facing a New Enemy; Hogg Feeling the Heat of His First Relegation Battle

Article excerpt

RELEGATION is a whole new phenomenon for Ally Hogg, but Newcastle Falcons' No 8 is getting used to the fear that accompanies being in the drop zone, writes MARK SMITH.

The Scottish star never had to fret over top-flight survival during his decade at Edinburgh in the Magners League, with the Celtic competition being a 10-team closed shop.

But with the Falcons one point adrift at the foot of the table in his maiden Aviva Premiership campaign, he is having to get used to the concept fast.

"It is something different, and it definitely puts added pressure on," said the 28-year-old, who scored 10 tries in his 48 Scottish caps.

"If you were in this position in the Magners League then you would start thinking about building for next year, but we don't have that luxury because we are fighting for our lives until the very end of the season."

Saturday's 30-29 defeat by relegation rivals Leeds saw the Falcons slide to the foot of the standings, with Hogg's side currently one point behind their Yorkshire rivals but with a game in hand. Should the two finish the campaign on May 7 tied on the same points tally, then the next deciding factor would be the number of league games won this season.

Both teams are tied on four at present, but Newcastle's vastly superior points difference would see them enjoying the upper hand should the need for separation still arise.

The slim possibility of a lifeline for both Leeds and the Falcons does exist in the form of the Championship promotion race, with only Worcester Warriors believed to have met the criteria for entry into the top flight.

They have secured a home semi-final at Sixways on April 30 as they bid to bounce straight back from their own relegation this time last year, but should they falter in the knock-out stages then no promotion or relegation would take place. Quite rightly, Hogg and his Newcastle team-mates are not holding out for that particular get-out-of-jail card, with the Scot insisting: "At one point behind and four games to go it is still in our own hands, and we will go out there for every single match determined to fight for the win. …

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