Dean Richards is not too downhearted by Newcastle Falcons’ European exit, the director of rugby having seen his side bow out with a 28-0 home victory over Bucharest Wolves.
Brive’s Thursday night thumping of Calvisano meant it was not sufficient to progress through to the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
However, the director of rugby saw enough in Newcastle’s three-try triumph to suggest they are making progress.
“The guys tried hard,” said Richards, whose team led 18-0 at the break.
“Our pitch is in awful condition at the moment but we tried to play, which was quite nice.
“There were some nice touches out there, but we probably could have scored another two or three tries.
“I don’t know why we kicked a penalty at goal in the second half when we were well ahead, but we showed a lot of endeavour and finished with a well-worked try through Tom Catterick.”
Centre James Fitzpatrick was one early casualty after being forced from the field just 15 minutes into what was shaping up to be a promising performance, Richards revealing: “Fitzy twisted his ankle.
“Hopefully it is not too serious, but we will have to wait a little while for things to settle and for the medics to have a good look at him. We hope it is just a sprain.”
Admitting they had ground to a virtual standstill between half-time and the hour mark, the ex-England and Lions No 8 said: “The boys picked themselves up for the game quite well, but there was a spell after half-time where the tempo went out of it.
“We brought on a new half-back pairing in Phil Godman and Warren Fury, who made an impact, and it was nice to get a young prospect like James Hallam onto the field for the last 15 or so minutes.
“That was his first competitive game for the senior side, and there were a lot of good things in the game despite the result in Brive meaning we didn’t go through to the quarter-finals.
“There was a 20-minute period during the second half where we lost our way a little bit through bad decision-making, but we picked it up and finished with a nice try.”
The Falcons move into LV= Cup action next weekend, a Sunday date at Saracens seeing them try to chase down Scarlets and Northampton in the Pool D standings.
“It will be different down at Saracens, and not the same kind of challenge we faced against Bucharest,” said Richards, who is set to go with a youthful selection against a Saracens squad who also have a friendly game the day before against South African visitors the Sharks.
“On Thursday we were up against a side who defend in a totally different way to Premiership opposition, which meant holes opened up in places where you wouldn’t ordinarily expect them to appear.
“That can be a little bit frustrating because the game unfolds in a way you are not accustomed to, and I think we found that in the first leg in Romania where we created a lot of chances, but didn’t always finish them off.
“The old adage of course is that you play what you see in front of you, but going down to Saracens next weekend will be back to what we are used to and a more familiar kind of game.
“It will be far more competitive in many ways than what we have had over the last couple of weeks.
“It is the start of the new year, and effectively the start of the second half of our season.”
One Falcons player who could miss the Allianz Park clash is prop-forward Scott Wilson, who has been drafted into England Saxons’ training squad for their match against Irish Wolfhounds next Saturday.
The 19-year-old was a Junior World Cup winner with England Under-20s last year, but also qualifies for Scotland through birth.
Should he take the field for the Saxons in Gloucester he would not be able to pursue a potential international career with Scotland, having been raised and playing his junior club rugby in Berwick.