29 November 2004
Newcastle Falcons centre Jamie Noon stood in as captain on Sunday as his side kicked their way past Northampton Saints at Kingston Park, and insisted afterwards that there is significant room for improvement despite the win.
Six penalties and three drop goals ultimately saw the Falcons home, with skipper Noon saying: "We knew it would be a frustrating game today because Northampton are in a very difficult situation, and that it would be a dog fight at the breakdown.
"We made it hard for ourselves and it was a very scrappy game, but we just had to keep the scoreboard ticking over and ensure that at the end of the game we were on top.
"The number of errors has been an issue all season, although to be fair both teams made a lot today. The ball was greasy, but that's no excuse, and we were making mistakes in areas where we shouldn't be."
Elaborating on those areas for improvement, he said: "Our one-up defence could have been better, and we were occasionally sloppy at the breakdown.
"We're making more clean breaks than any other team in the league, but we're not as patient as we should be. We love to play with the ball and we spread it a lot, but we're making mistakes and need to address them.
"But credit to the guys, because we dug in, fought hard and came away with something. We're happy to win games like that, because in the past they are the sort of games that we would've lost."
Noon has had a to-and-fro week, having trained with England on Monday and Tuesday, with Newcastle on Wednesday and then back down with England for the rest of the week.
Having ultimately missed out on an England cap against Australia on Saturday, he said: "I've struggled a bit this week with going backwards and forwards from Newcastle to the England camp in Surrey, as have Craig Hamilton and Micky Ward, and the disruption has been hard on me as I didn't get back up here until yesterday.
"It's not the best preparation for a big game, but I'm just happy to have come through it."
Asked about the impact of second half replacement Colin Charvis, Noon said of the Wales star: "When you have people of his class and calibre coming on, it just lifts everyone, and then we have a load of great players on the bench as well as him, which in past years has perhaps not been the case."
Of the end result from a dogged afternoon's work, he added: "The win is so crucial, and there have been games this season, at Wasps and Sale for example, but have still been on the losing side.
"We're happy today to have just made sure of the win, and that's all you have to do. If you score loads of tries and lose then that's obviously a lot worse than scoring none and winning, but we know we have tries in us, and they will come."
Next up for Noon and the Falcons are back-to-back Heineken Cup dates against Edinburgh, starting on Sunday at Kingston Park.
"We've got a big chunk of momentum going in the Heineken Cup, and we want to keep that going, so it's important that we start well at home against Edinburgh," he said.
"They're maybe not playing as well as they would have liked to recently, although you could probably say the same of us, so it's going to be an interesting fortnight.
"We've got to win both of those games to be in with a shot of making the quarter finals, which is why we'll be doing all that we can in the week to make sure we put right the mistakes we made this afternoon, because we're a better team than that."