Who would have thought it. Barely into March and for the first time in years, the overwhelming fear of relegation is nothing but a mild irritation in the back of our minds.
Four back-to-back league wins for the first time since the 2001/'02 season, coupled with the deterioration of Bristol’s season means that Newcastle Falcons can, bar nothing short of a rugby miracle on Bristol’s part, start looking forward to another season of Guinness Premiership rugby next term.
Despite all attempts leading up to the game to quash the idea the Bristol match at Bristol was a relegation decider, it quite simply was just that. The Falcons showed they did not want to go down in such a manner the rest of the league sat up and was frogmarched into taking notice.
Those who opted to bet on the then relegation favourites at the start of the season, felt obliged to crumple up their betting slips and throw them on the fire that was slowly eating away at Bristol’s top-flight status.
Magical, mesmerising, astounding.
None of these words have been heard around Kingston park since that fateful Friday the 13th. Instead, more wholesome, Northern noises have been heard. Words like hard-work, passion, determination, so long lacking have quickly become self evident buzz-words.
And isn’t it wonderful to see?
We Geordies are simple in our wishes. We want the team, our team, to try absolutely 100 percent to win. That’s it. Not giving away silly England-esque penalties, not taking part in the ELV’s sponsored ping-pong, just keeping the ball in hand and getting stuck in to the opposition.
So why have we started winning after all this time? The Falcons clearly now have one of the most under-rated packs in the Premiership. The influence of our resident gentle giant in All Black Carl Hayman has been a highlight in his time here, shown by the way we can shove most packs around the paddock these days.
Captain Phil Dowson is leading by example again and the young guns like Tim Swinson and Geoff Parling are showing the older hands just how its done. Adam Balding has been a driving force in ensuring we have go-forward ball, (despite Steve Bates insistence on only playing him 50 minutes regardless of situation of performance).
In the backs, the influence of Mr. Versatility, Tom May, who is the epitome of a club man in the back-line, at fly-half most recently has helped take his teammates by the scruff of the neck and thrown then at the oppositions white-wash.
Coupled with the emergence of Mickey Young and Danny Williams (tipped to play for England Saxons next year by the chairman), Tane Tu’ipulotu settling in and Alex Tait showing his brother how to play full-back, things have started to go well for the Falcons.
Next up is Sale at their place, a team flying high in the league looking to give departing boss Philippe Saint Andre a league trophy as a going away present before he leaves in the summer allowing the legendary Jason Robinson to take the reigns. Tough? Yes. Winnable?
Mmm, yes, on current form we really could upset their title hopes I feel, such is the energy coming from the Falcons camp at the moment.
Harlequins at home, Bath away and Leicester at home follow and we should be looking for at least two wins out of these four. Do this, and we could pull away from our perennial relegation-bothering brothers Worcester and Northampton.
Steve Bates says we should be looking up the table and rightly so. This league is the best in the world as there are enough games left for us to shove our way up with the big boys and (say it quietly) start threatening for a European place.
Instincts say we won’t and settle for our usual 9-11th place finish but this is the reason we love rugby—nobody knows -and why you dear reader, are sitting reading this.
That glorious feeling of elation in victory, sorrow in defeat and everything in between is the reason why we leave the warmth and our love ones behind most Sundays to be part of this roller-coaster ride. And this is one fan that is not getting off until the final whistle in May.
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