Flying Falcons will pose big threat

When the Premiership fixture list was issued during the summer, I am sure most Exeter Chiefs fans looked at the visit of Newcastle Falcons to Sandy Park this Saturday (3.00 pm) as a relatively easy five points for the Devon side.

That was no doubt also the view of BT Sport as they overlooked it for one of their live broadcasts.

But it has ended up being a top-four clash following the impressive start to the season by both clubs.

Whereas that will come as no surprise with Rob Baxter’s men, who came into the campaign as Premiership champions, it was certainly not what was expected of Dean Richards’ Falcons, who were much improved last season but still finished the campaign in eighth place in the final Premiership table.

Wins at home to traditional strugglers Worcester Warriors and Sale Sharks in the first couple weeks of the new term did not raise much of an eyebrow, and when they lost 29-7 to Saracens in Philadelphia, that was the reality check everyone was expecting them to suffer.

However, despite the long journey home, they backed that up with a stunning 33-32 victory at Bath last weekend, and then a home bonus-point win over newly-promoted London Irish two days ago, giving them four victories in their opening five games.

Exeter, who beat Newcastle 46-17 in their league clash at Sandy Park last season, will still start the game as favourites, especially with home advantage, but boasting a back division containing the likes of Toby Flood, Niki Goneva, DTH van der Merwe and former Chief Josh Matavesi, Exeter will underestimate the Falcons at their peril.

While the Falcons were seeing off Irish on Friday night, former Chiefs full-back Byron McGuigan was scoring a hat-trick of tries as Sale Sharks crushed Gloucester 57-10 at the AJ Bell Stadium. Another bad evening for the Cherry and Whites.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.