ANDY Perry is determined to deliver a gift-wrapped Guinness Premiership victory tomorrow with the help of the Falcons fans.
The big Falcons lock was one of the stars of last week’s 39-0 win over Connacht and he and his Newcastle teammates are looking for a repeat performance against leaders Gloucester.
Kingston Park is set for its biggest turn-out of the season and Perry said: “The crowd is definitely a factor for us. As a team we have to rise to the occasion and there’s no doubt this is a huge opportunity in front of our own fans, who give us outstanding support every single time we play at home.
“Gloucester, top-of-the-table opposition and a full house at Kingston Park in the holiday season, what a Christmas present a win would be to our fans. I’m really looking forward to it.
“We saw last weekend that the forwards can step up to the mark. Our set piece has been in good order and hopefully with the hard work we’ve done in training we can take that in to the weekend and progress from last weekend.
“There has been a big focus this week on nullifying their big ball carriers and if we can do that then we will give ourselves a big advantage.”
The Falcons drew 18-18 with the Cherry and Whites down at Kingsholm in the EDF Cup earlier this season and Perry added: “We can take a lot of heart from our performance down there and it’s a game we feel as if we should’ve won.
“We played our game, we played the Falcons way and there will be a lot of store put in to that brand of rugby this weekend in the rematch.
“The Gloucester away game and last weekend against Connacht here at Kingston Park are the two games that stand out in my mind.
“In the first half last weekend, while the points might have been a little slow in coming, we applied a lot of pressure which told later in the game.
“Connacht are a good side, much better than some people give them credit for, so to beat them 39-0 was a fantastic achievement.”
Perry and second row partner Mark Sorenson, along with No.8 Russell Winter, were the pick of the Falcons pack against Connacht and ex-Royal Marine Perry put in a superb physical display against the Irishmen.
“I’ve gained a lot of personal confidence from the way the game panned out for me last Sunday,” he said. “I’m learning all the time, even at my age, because I’m still relatively inexperienced at this level compared to some guys. The key for me now is to take that confidence into the Gloucester game and do my best for the team.
“It’s great to be involved alongside Mark because he’s a fantastic player. He is a real workhorse, he does a lot of unseen things and for a relatively young guy he’s extremely knowledgeable about the game.
“I feel as if we’re starting to develop a bit of a partnership in the second row and it’s one that I would obviously like to continue. The introduction of new players like Carl Hayman has focused our minds on the set piece as an area for improvement and I think this season we’ve shown a good application and attitude there.
“We’re now starting to see the benefits of a solid set piece, firstly giving the backs much better ball and then secondly using it as a platform for the forwards to attack themselves. We want to deliver steady possession for the backs to work their magic and we’re starting to see it.”
The Falcons have moved Mathew Tait to full back to accommodate the return of England cap Toby Flood at inside centre. Tom May moves to the right wing for Tim Visser with Jamie Noon switching to outside centre.
Jon Golding takes the place of Joe McDonnell at loose head prop because the Falcons can field only one overseas player and that’s Hayman. Although Gloucester are currently 13 points above Newcastle, head coach Dean Ryan said: “Newcastle away from home is one of the most demanding fixtures in the Premiership. They have an outstanding spine to their team and world-class players in key areas.
“I think both teams like to try and play rugby in the right way, and that is a great endorsement to both clubs and also the Premiership.”
Ryan makes three changes from the side that defeated Bourgoin 51-27 last weekend.
Scrum-half Gareth Cooper starts instead of Rory Lawson, with captain Marco Bortolami returning in the second-row and flanker Alasdair Strokosch also featuring, but a slight wrist injury sidelines back-row ace Akapusi Qera.
TICKETS for tomorrow’s game are still available by calling 0871 226 60 60, or popping to Kingston Park during office hours.
Newcastle (8) v Gloucester (1)
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: M Tait, T May, J Noon (capt), T Flood, J Rudd, J Wilkinson, L Dickson, J Golding, M Thompson, C Hayman, A Perry, M Sorenson, G Parling, B Woods, R Winter. Replacements: A Long, D Wilson, S Tomes, B Wilson, J Grindal, T Visser, O Phillips.
GLOUCESTER: I Balshaw, J Simpson-Daniel, M Tindall, A Allen, L Vainikolo; R Lamb, G Cooper; N Wood, O Azam, C Nieto, M Bortolami (capt), A Brown, A Strokosch, L Narraway, G Delve. Replacements: A Titterrell, P Collazo, W James, P Buxton, R Lawson, W Walker, L Lloyd.
Last season: Newcastle 19 Gloucester 12, Gloucester 24 Newcastle 18
Last six league matches: Newcastle L W W L L L; Gloucester W W W W L W
Top tryscorers: Tom May (Newcastle) 4; Lesley Vainikolo (Gloucester) 7
Top pointscorers: Jonny Wilkinson (Newcastle) 100; Ryan Lamb (Gloucester) 133