NEWCASTLE Falcons’ British and Irish Cup trip to Cross Keys has been rescheduled for Friday, February 1 after sheer weight of snow left Pandy Park unplayable today.
If there was to be any good to come from the situation it was that the call was made more than hour before the Falcons’ bus was due to depart Kingston Park on what would have been an entirely wasted 600-mile round trip, and long before any of the travelling support had set off.
The Caerphilly County village, as expected, suffered huge volumes of snow throughout yesterday and, despite the best efforts of the Welsh Premiership outfit, it always seemed a losing battle.
Even with covers on the pitch trying to minimise the impact of temperatures well below zero, the extent of the deluge rendered any hopes of play obsolete by mid-morning when the call was officially made.
They seemed resigned to their fate given the ‘snowmageddon’ label which preceded photos of the venue on their official twitter feed, and anyone with half an eye on the forecast can hardly have been surprised.
While most parts of the country contended with yellow and amber warnings, a small circle of deep crimson fixed itself almost directly above the Newport area on the TV weather map.
Today’s non-starter is the second time in as many visits the Falcons have suffered weather-induced inconvenience, with their 2001 European Challenge Cup visit seeing Pandy Park’s main field completely under-water due to the nearby rover bursting its banks.
On that occasion a Newcastle squad laden with international players opted to get the game played at a nearby park in a day which has gone down in legend, although with the entire surrounding area under almost a foot of snow any such hopes of a repeat were impossible.
From the Falcons’ perspective the rescheduling at least gives them a full run-up to Friday’s visit of Cornish Pirates, with the Penzance outfit making the longest trip in mainland English professional sport when they travel the 481 miles from Cornwall to Tyneside.
Getting Kingston Park playable will be a feat in itself given a forecast which predicts snow for the next four days and maximum temperatures of just a single degree, but the club’s much-improved grounds staff have proven themselves adept at beating the elements so far this season with every game played.
The club’s synthetic training pitch at Druid Park should ensure minimal disruption to their preparation, while the longer-term view will begin to turn to February 1.
Not only is that the night the Falcons will now take on Cross Keys, but it is also the evening when England’s second-string national side the Saxons take on Scotland A at Kingston Park.
The British and Irish Cup replay should not hit the gate too hard given the small numbers expected to travel, although from past experience the club will be hoping for an upturn in the weather given the variation in walk-up.
l LOWER down the leagues the snow has taken an equal if not greater toll, with virtually the entire card right across the region already wiped out.
Tynedale’s National One trip to Cinderford was the first casualty.
An 11am pitch inspection was cancelled because the snow was so bad the referee could not even reach the Gloucestershire venue to run the rule over the playing surface.
Blaydon’s home date with Blackheath was scratched two hours later, saving the London club a wasted journey to Crow Trees, with both games rescheduled for Saturday, February 9.