Newcastle Falcons Break Club Record Attendance At St James' Park With Win Over Northampton Saints

Newcastle Falcons Break Club Record Attendance At St James' Park With Win Over Northampton Saints
11:53, 25 Mar 2018

Mick Hogan, Newcastle Falcons’ managing director, looked mightily relieved and a little emotionally drained at about half past seven on Saturday night.

His club had just eked out a hard-fought 25-22 win over Northampton to climb to third in the Aviva Premiership and underline their status as serious play-off contenders.

Moreover, they did it at St James’ Park in front of a club record home crowd of 30,174.

That dwarfed their previous best of 11,750 during a Premiership victory over Bath at Gateshead International Stadium in May 1998.

Hogan was the driving force in persuading Falcons owner Semore Kurdi to take a home game into the heart of the city at the iconic home of Newcastle United.

The concept could have fallen flat in such a football-mad area but the Falcons billed the event as ‘The Big One’ and marketed it superbly.

Adult tickets started at £10 and children for £5, ensuring a bumper crowd which saw local lad Toby Flood, now in his second spell at the Falcons, claim a matchwinning 20-point haul with the boot.

There are just four rounds left and Dean Richards’ men are shaping up as the story of the season.

Indeed, they are enjoying their best campaign for 16 years and former England captain Richards said: “St James’ Park is fantastic and we’ve known that since the World Cup games here in 2015.

“The atmosphere was absolutely brilliant and I think we probably deserved to nick it on the day.

“There is more to Newcastle than just soccer and it’s just a sports-mad city and region.”

Saturday’s crowd against Northampton was around four times bigger than they usually attract to Kingston Park and also three times more profitable.

Flood, a ball-boy at St James’ Park in his youth, orchestrated affairs at fly-half throughout.

The former England man said: “I’ve been lucky enough to play at some pretty awesome venues during my career, but that was a huge tick in the box and after that final whistle the buzz was just incredible.

“When you watch it back you can sit and appreciate what actually happened during the match itself, and I consider myself lucky to have had that opportunity.”

Vereniki Goneva, meanwhile, kept his pre-match promise to mimic Alan Shearer’s famous goal celebrations when he scored.

After Goneva sauntered clear to score the Falcons’ only try at the Leazes End during the first half, the Fijian winger peeled away with his right arm raised aloft.

There is a three-year agreement for the Falcons play an annual Premiership home match at St James’ Park and next year they are aiming to fill the lower bowl of the stadium, which holds 36,000.

In year three, they aim to fill the stadium to its capacity of 52,405.

Richards has built a team with a homegrown heart and his shrewd recruitment and motivational powers have got the Falcons punching well above their weight.

Optimism abounds and Richards’ men will host Brive in a European Challenge Cup quarter-final on Friday, this time back at Kingston Park.

Flood added: “We have a chance of reaching two semi-finals and the boys are just enjoying the ride. It’s our first crack at it at this end of the table and we’re loving it.

“I’m feeding off the incredible enthusiasm of our young guys, with me being an old man these days, but it’s a pleasure coming in every day.”

The Falcons are flying but the best could be yet to come.

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