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RFU Championship final: 1st leg preview

20 May 2013

  • Bedford Blues looking to upset the odds
  • Falcons have beaten Blues both home and away this season
RFU Championship finalists Newcastle Falcons and Bedford Blues

Photo: RFU Archive

Newcastle Falcons will be aiming to make it win number four against Bedford Blues when they travel to Goldington Road for the first leg of the RFU Championship final on Thursday, May 23 (KO 7.45pm).

The Falcons, who finished top of the Championship table by some distance in the regular season, beat the Blues both home and away in the league and knocked them out of the British & Irish Cup at the semi-final stage.

Victory in the Midlands would set them up nicely going into the return match at Kingston Park on Wednesday, May 29 because historically the side that wins the first leg has gone on to clinch promotion.

Exeter held a slender 9-6 advantage over Bristol in the first year of the Championship final in 2010 before going on to complete the job in an emphatic fashion at the Memorial Stadium, while Worcester and London Welsh followed suit in 2011 and 2012 with first leg victories at Cornish Pirates.

Bedford will take heart from Newcastle’s record of just one win in four and the fact their last two games against the Falcons could have gone either way. Luck was certainly on Newcastle’s side at Kingston Park on March 8 – a match they won 17-15 – when Jamie Helleur scored the most bizarre try witnessed anywhere in rugby for many a year. The Samoan centre was the fastest to react to a penalty kick that struck both uprights and the bar and then dropped kindly into his arms. Gopperth converted for a 7-6 interval lead. Blues fought back to regain the initiative for a second time, but they ultimately left the north east heartbroken after Newcastle debutant Noah Cato crossed the line for a last-gasp try that Gopperth once again converted.

Six weeks later the sides met again in the British & Irish Cup semi-final at Goldington Road. Newcastle, dominant for the first 70 minutes, had to overcome a furious late onslaught from the Blues to hang on to win 18-15 and book their place in the final.

Bedford’s last home win against Newcastle came in what was then known as the Allied Dunbar Premiership, when, on April 8 2000, tries from would-be England internationals Andy Gomarsall and Paul Sackey helped the Blues to a 32-22 win.

Bedford Blues v Newcastle Falcons, Thursday, May 23, KO 7.45pm. Live on Sky Sports HQ
Newcastle Falcons v Bedford Blues, Wednesday, May 29, KO 7.45pm. Live on Sky Sports HD


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