Falcons out to build on vital win
March 3, 2011
Will Rory Clegg be able to steer Harlequins to victory at Kingston Park? © Getty Images
Buoyed by victory in last weekend's basement battle with Leeds, Newcastle will be hoping to further ease their relegation fears when they host a stuttering Harlequins at Kingston Park on Friday night.
The Falcons remain 11th in the Aviva Premiership table but their 22-5 victory at Headingley - their first league success since November - saw them pull seven points clear of Leeds at the foot of the table.
Harlequins, meanwhile, are just one point outside the top four but they travel north on the back of a disappointing 15-9 defeat at the hands of London Irish and will be intent on getting their push for a play-off place back on track with a win.
Newcastle - Player to Watch: Ally Hogg produced muck of the forward grunt against Leeds and was also amongst the tries. Can he back it up with another strong showing?
Newcastle - Team News: The Falcons make two changes to the side that saw off Leeds last time out. Scotland international Euan Murray returns to the front row and will pack down alongside Matt Thompson and Jon Golding. Brent Wilson returns the line-up at openside and forms a new back-row with Tim Swinson at blindside and Hogg at No.8. Kiwi Jimmy Gopperth will once again pull the strings at fly-half and will be partnered at scrum-half by Micky Young.
Harlequins - Player to Watch: With the news that Kiwi playmaker Nick Evans will be sidelined for four weeks with a hand injury, Quins need Rory Clegg to make the shirt his own.
Harlequins - Team News: Quins make just one change to the side that started last week against Irish. In the front row, Ceri Jones joins Joe Gray and James Johnston, with Joe Marler moving to the bench. Ollie Kohn and Pete Browne combine in the second row, with Maurie Fa'asavalu, Will Skinner and Chris Robshaw making up the back row. Dave Moore makes his second Premiership start at scrum-half, where he joins forces once again with Clegg. Jordan Turner-Hall and Ugo Monye are the centre pairing, with Ollie Lindsay-Hague and Tom Williams starting on the wings. Mike Brown retains the No.15 shirt.
Key Battle: Quins were always second best in the scrums and lineouts against Irish and will need to up their game against a Falcons front-row bolstered by the return of Euan Murray and determined to make amends for their last appearance at home - a defeat to Exeter.
Trivia: Harlequins' last victory at Kingston Park came all the way back in November 2006
Stats: The Falcons have lost three of their last four fixtures at home, their sole victory a 17-3 defeat of Exeter in the Anglo-Welsh Cup last month
"Friday at home to Harlequins is a massive chance to put things right at Kingston Park, especially in light of how badly we finished our last home match against Exeter." - Falcons head coach Alan Tait demands improvement from this side
"A start is what he has wanted for a while. It looks like he's got it and it is up to him to take it. It is his turn to steer the ship." - Quins boss Conor O'Shea throws the gauntlet down to fly-half Rory Clegg
Fantasy: Harlequins fly-half Nick Evans has scored more points than any other player in this season's ESPNscrum Premiership Fantasy Rugby (118) but having been sidelined through injury perhaps you need to tweak your line-up?
Prediction: Victory over Leeds will no doubt lift the Falcons but Quins are in danger of losing touch with the leaders and right now their need is greater than their relegation-threatened rivals. Away win.
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