DEAN Richards insisted there was no need for the half-time hairdryer on Saturday despite his Newcastle Falcons side leading by only two points at lowly Jersey.
As wind and rain lashed the Channel Islands, the Falcons found themselves up by just 5-3 midway through an encounter which ultimately delivered them another maximum-point haul in a 10 -game unbeaten start to the league season.
Jimmy Gopperth’s 25th-minute touch-down following a line-out in the left corner saved his side the embarrassment of trailing at the interval for the first time this term, but they could not have complained had they been behind.
Propelled backwards by a fired-up Jersey scrum and kicking into the teeth of a fierce wind, there was precious little separating teams who had been two divisions apart as recently as six months ago.
The boot of Welsh fly-half Barry Davies nudged Jersey ahead via a penalty on 14 minutes, and the damage could have been more but for two further efforts missing their target.
Newcastle, in contrast, failed to find their early rhythm, but their director of rugby is a much calmer beast these days when it comes to the matter of half-time motivation.
“Our team talks are process-driven rather than shouting and screaming, and if I am going to go down the other route then I save that for Monday morning’s meeting,” said Richards, whose side made a much better fist of things with the wind at their backs.
“I thought it was a very good game and, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything other than that. Having looked at what Jersey have done at home this season they are a quality side.
“Their scrummage has been really good, and people tend to forget that in their pre-season game against Leicester they pushed them over for a penalty try.
“They are a good team, and we knew it would be the sort of hard-fought contest we got.
“To come away with a bonus point, given the conditions and how well Jersey were playing, was a great effort.”
Jersey’s astonishing rise to rugby prominence – four promotions in five seasons – is finally slowing down in England’s second tier thanks to their ongoing relegation battle, but their league position was not showing in the least as they forced Newcastle to find another gear.
But Richards’ men are nothing if not efficient these days, and less than four minutes of the second half had passed by when Ryan Shortland ventured infield from his right-wing position and took flat ball at full tilt from Gopperth to storm over between the posts.
It did not precede the points avalanche that many natives had feared pre-match, but with their scrum finally gaining some traction and the forwards maximising their superior fitness a driven line-out down the left saw tight-head James Hall dot down the third.
The four-try bonus point was not decided until four minutes from time as Jersey hung on gamely, but it was worth the wait when Alex Tait marked his 100th appearance for the club by rounding off a simple passing move to exploit numbers out wide.
It had been a tight contest in difficult conditions, but it mattered not to the travelling Falcons fans as they lubricated their vocal chords long into the night with local tipple Liberation Ale.
“The support we received was absolutely fantastic, and I really want to thank the guys who have travelled over because they have been brilliant,” said Richards, delivering his post-match comments from the touchline terrace to a soundtrack of Blaydon Races from those nearby.
“In Jersey they have found excellent hosts who have looked after everybody superbly.
“They have been equally if not more hospitable than any team we have played against so far.”
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: A Tait, L Fielden (A Higgins, 76), A Crockett, J Helleur, R Shortland, J Gopperth, W Fury (J Pasqualin, 76); G Shiells, M Thompson (M Mayhew, 72), J Hall, S Tomes (J Goode, 77), S MacLeod, C York (R Mayhew, 70), M Wilson, A Hogg (captain).
Scorers – Tries: J Gopperth, R Shortland, J Hall, A Tait. Conversions: J Gopperth 2.
JERSEY: G Bryce, E Tellwright, J Copsey, D Sanders (D Bishop, 71), E Dawson, B Davies, D McCormack (captain, N Griffiths, 53); R Barrington (S McCarthy, 40), D Felton, J Brennan (J Gethings, 61), R Anderson (P Rodgers, 40), D Markham (N Hannay, 40), J Voss, E Nihill (F Silcock, 71), N Trower.
Scorers – Penalties: B Davies.
Referee: S Lee.