RFU Championship final 1st leg preview
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 19:45).
The thrilling climax to the Championship season will be screened live in the clubhouse at the Home of Rugby. Doors will be open at 7pm and all are welcome to come along and see if Bedford can upset the Falcons.
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 29th because historically the side that wins the first leg goes 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.
RFU Championship finals
1st leg: Bedford Blues v Newcastle Falcons, Thursday May 23, KO 745pm.
2nd leg: Newcastle Falcons v Bedford Blues, Wednesday May 29, KO 745pm.