12 months ago the Newcastle Falcons were in a very dark place indeed. Gary Gold had failed in his bid to get Newcastle off the summit of the table (after taking over from Alan Tait), and despite a last day win against London Wasps, the Falcons finished at the root of the table with what could only be described as a dismal record. A month later and the Falcons who thought they may have had a chance of avoiding relegation following a decision not to promote London Welsh were left to pick up the pieces, the decision overturned and the RFU Championship awaited for the North East club.
It certainly left a bitter taste in the mouth. Not only had Welsh finished fourth, but many were labelling the Oxford place club as bully boys. It was even stranger for the Falcons who had brought in some big names, and now they were playing in the second tier of English rugby for the first time. Long gone were the days of Johnny Wilkinson and a long hard slog awaited new coach Dean Richards.
But they hit the ground running, and a spectacular league and cup campaign saw the Falcons write the headlines themselves. And incredible twenty one out of twenty two wins in the Championship saw the Falcons finish at the summit with ninety eight points, a huge twenty four ahead of Nottingham, only losing on the final day to Bristol. Not only that, but the Falcons produced an unbeaten British and Irish Cup campaign up until the final, when they were narrowly ousted by Leinster A in extra time at Kingston Park.
The Falcons started there playoff campaign with defeat to Leeds Carnegie, but won the second leg at Kingston Park, before beating Bedford Blues away and at home to seal promotion back to the Aviva Premiership. It was a huge accomplishment, the Falcons had lost just three games in all competitions during the entire season under Richards and ultimately got the job done.
Despite losing their star player Jimmy Gopperth to Leinster next season, the Falcons have so many positives to look forward to. First of all, Richards tactically knowledge really is of the highest standard, and despite the fact the Falcons may have not played the most attractive rugby over the course of the year, they got things done. They also look forward to signing none other than Scottish international Mike Blair from Brive, Scott Lawson from London Irish and Danny Barnes from Munster who promises to be an exciting prospect.
We also see the return of European rugby to Kingston Park with Brive of France, Calvisano of Italy and Bucharest Wolves of Romania making the trip to the North East. With the likes of Doncaster and Nottingham being swapped for Leicester Tigers and Saracens next season it has to be said, it’s an exciting time for the Falcons, who really are well and truly back.