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Tig Blog

Memories formed in black and white

So just about the only thing we know about the Gallagher Premiership season in 2020/21 at this point is that Newcastle Falcons will replace Saracens in it.

Saracens’ destiny has been decided for a while, of course, but the RFU have now announced that there will be no further play in the Championship with the Falcons confirmed as champions. It’s a shame it couldn’t have been played to a finish, but these things are out of anyone’s hands in this strangest of seasons.

The Falcons have a healthy dose of Tigers influence, right from the top with Dean Richards and John Wells of course, through players including Toby Flood and Logo Mulipola.

Add the names of George McGuigan, Michael Young, Gareth Owen, Sebastian de Chaves and Greg Peterson, and that’s quite a list with Leicester links. Club captain Will Welch is also the grandson of an ex-Tigers player.

Martin Corry and Mathew Tait became massive favourites at Tigers after starting out on Tyneside, international wings Tony Underwood and Vereniki Goneva have worn the colours of both clubs, and Tim Stimpson won a record five successive league titles as he enjoyed four in a row with Tigers to follow one in black and white.

Andy Goode, don't forget, became a local hero in the Nohrt-East when he came out of retirement to steer the Premiership ship.

In the Tigers current squad, Calum Green has had spells in green either side of his successes in black and white, while Johnny McPhillips started his professional career at Kingston Park.

There have been several others over the years and some notable clashes on the field too, beginning with a Cup Final win at Twickenham when the North-Easterners were still known as Gosforth and wore green and white.

It was a Final in which anyone of that era will tell you the Geordie forwards were supposed to dominate. But the experience of two previous successes in the competition came through as Peter Wheeler led Tigers to their historic hat-trick and a grip on the John Player trophy in perpetuity.

Under their new, professional identity, the Falcons swept all before them in their title-winning season in 1998, including a win at Welford Road with a star-studded team steered by their boss Rob Andrew. The Tig remembered the return was hosted at Gateshead International Stadium but not that Falcons won again nor the fact that Will Greenwood was sent off.

It is easier to recall that a year later, Tigers gained some revenge when it was a win in the North-East that put the rubber-stamp on the first of four consecutive league titles under Deano as director of rugby.

There were a couple of half-century wins in encounters at Welford Road too before the 83-10 triumph in 2004/05 over a team which included shell-shocked teenager Tait. It was a wonder he agreed to return to the scene of the crime in later years, though The Tig is among the legion glad he did as he reignited his career in green, white and red.

Newcastle fans will have their own memories of lowering Tigers colours and there have been a number of tight meetings, not least at Kingston Park, where a young Flood chose a game against Leicester to announce himself as Jonny Wilkinson’s legitimate successor with a last-minute winning kick in a game which looked to be going the other way.

There was that Mat Tait try when he out-jumped brother Alec to score in the corner at Kingston Park and probably had to apologise afterwards, and who could ever forget that Telusa sidestep at Kingston Park which sent the whole of Tyneside on a merry dance?

For tension, you couldn’t – or wouldn’t want to – match the contrasting emotions of home defeat two seasons ago which put Falcons into the Premiership semi-finals at Tigers’ expense and then the Guy Thompson-inspired wins at Kingston Park and Welford Road in 2018/19 which just about sealed the Falcons’ fate at the bottom of the table and spared enormous blushes back in the East Midlands.

It’s a rivalry that has had a lot of history packed into a short period of time and one which we now know will kick off again in 2020/21.