Falcons target home European quarter-final

Newcastle Falcons Director of Rugby Steve Bates has set his side the target of a home quarter-final against one of Europe’s rugby giants following the Falcons’ Round 3 17-6 Amlin Challenge Cup victory over Montauban at Kingston Park.

As they prepare for the re-match on Friday at Stade de Sapiac, Bates’ Pool 5 table-toppers are in pole position for a home tie in the last eight after three wins from three starts.

And the former England scrum half is setting his sights high, declaring: “It would be great to get one of the real big boys from the Heineken Cup here at Kingston Park in the quarter-finals.

“We have a lot of hard work to do between now and then in cementing our qualification, with two trips to France still to come, but in terms of our supporters it would be a real special occasion to get one of the giants of European rugby over here to the North-East for a big home quarter-final.”

But Bates insists his side will take nothing for granted and will pay full respect to Montauban during Friday’s return leg in South-West France.

“I thought they came to Newcastle Falcons and gave it a really good go last week which, in fairness, is not always the case with the French teams on a cold night at Kingston Park,” he said.

“They started the first half well, had some big lads up front and their fullback Johan Dalla Riva caused us a lot of problems early on.

“We were made to fight every inch of the way and trailed by three points at the break, but I thought in the second half we dominated territory and possession enough to get over the finishing line.”

Expecting a similarly feisty encounter at a venue where the Falcons tasted defeat in Pool action three years ago, Bates added: “Montauban now have some very searching questions to ask themselves in terms of how they see the remainder of this competition on their list of priorities.

“They beat Clermont Auvergne in their last home game so they obviously have a lot of talent and power, and if they go with their front-line selection on Friday then we know we will have our work cut out.

“In terms of ourselves we will be looking for continuity in selection, to really build on the home leg and secure the victory which will hopefully go some way to securing our place in the quarter-finals.”

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