Barnes looking for improvements at Falcons

Hartpury face up to one of the big challenges of the Championship season when they make the long journey to Kingston Park, Newcastle, to face the Falcons on Friday evening (8pm).

Newcastle, of course, were a Premiership team up until very recently and it was something of a surprise when they fell out of the top flight last season, failing to recover from a poor start to the campaign.

After three comfortable wins in the first phase of the Championship Cup campaign, including a 52-14 victory at the ALPAS Arena, the Falcons were made to work somewhat harder in the league opener last weekend, against a London Scottish team which included former Hartpury players Jonas Mikalcius and Elliot Creed.

The 17-13 result will have reminded the Falcons, if needed, that no points can be taken for granted in the Championship and they will no doubt be keen to ensure that there are no slip-ups against Hartpury.

The Red & Blacks come into the match on the back of a very inauspicious start of their own, losing 8-20 to the Doncaster Knights in a game that will not linger long in the memory.  Neither side will have been pleased with their display, but Doncaster made fewer mistakes and had the ability to pick up critical turnovers, frequently at the set piece, when necessary.

“We are still very disappointed that we ended up getting nothing out of the game,” said DoR, John Barnes.

“Having watched it back, it was clear that we suffered with a struggling scrum and a misfiring lineout when we were in key areas of the pitch.  Those are both issues which we will need to rectify if we’re going to be competitive on Friday.”

“It’s reasonable to expect that the trip to Newcastle will be a tough one. Facing the relegated sides over the past two seasons, Bristol and London Irish, have always been our toughest challenges and this will be no different.”

“Newcastle found it difficult in the rain last week at Scottish, so I’m sure they’ll be very keen to put on a show for their home fans in the first home league fixture of the season.”

The Falcons will have plenty of players with Premiership and international quality to call on for Friday’s game, including a number who were not involved in the Cup game at Hartpury.

Toby Flood, Gary Graham and Sinoti Sinoti were all absent that day, while returning Fijian World Cup player, Josh Matavesi, could also come into the reckoning for the Falcons.

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