Newcastle Falcons aim to fly against French

NEWCASTLE Falcons will aim to continue their strong home form against French opposition this Saturday when Lyon are the Amlin Challenge Cup visitors to Kingston Park.

NEWCASTLE Falcons will aim to continue their strong home form against French opposition this Saturday when Lyon are the Amlin Challenge Cup visitors to Kingston Park.

The Falcons have lost just twice on home soil to French teams in their 12 seasons of European competition.

Brive were the first to break the duck with their 10-9 triumph in 2009 coming via a last-minute try through Fijian winger Norman Ligairi.

An all-in brawl after the final whistle marked Newcastle’s second and last ever home loss to a French side, when Montpellier were 6-0 victors earlier this year.

Overall the club have won 19 of their 21 home ties against clubs from across the Channel, with 10 seasons of Challenge Cup rugby and a pair of Heineken Cup campaigns.

The list of sides beaten in the North East is a cross-section of European heavyweights and names from yesteryear, consisting of Biarritz, Perpignan (twice), Castres (twice), Toulouse, Aurillac, Narbonne, Begles-Bordeaux, Mont de Marsan, Grenoble, Clermont-Auvergne, Brive (three times), Montauban (twice), Albi and Bourgoin.

Arguably the most memorable of those 19 was the 42-9 demolition of French giants Toulouse, which took place almost a decade ago to the day.

Hugh Vyvyan, Epi Taione and Michael Stephenson were the Falcons’ try-scorers against a Toulouse side including star names like Clement Poitrenaud, Frederic Michalak, Fabien Pelous and Cedric Heymans.

Saturday’s home date with Lyon will be the 1,111th game in the history of the Challenge Cup, with former Falcon Jonny Wilkinson still the top scorer in its history with a running total of 389 points.

The England star could well be gracing Kingston Park on Thursday December 8 when his French club Toulon travel to Newcastle, with their expensively-assembled squad also including ex-Falcons and All Black prop Carl Hayman.

 
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