They always said it would be Big, but even the organisers of The Big One must have been surprised with just how many people turned up to St James' Park on Saturday to watch rugby. The 30,000 strong crowd was three times the size of the Newcastle Falcons' previous record attendance, and those turning up before the Premiership match got underway were treated to an exhilarating game between the men's first teams of the city's two universities.
Several penalties early in the match saw both teams get points on the board, but a try from Northumbria saw them lead 13-9 at half time, and they extended this to 21-9 shortly after the break. A beast of a try from Matthew Ilube, however, turned the game around for Newcastle, and another try from Matthew Woodward and conversion from Olly Burgess levelled the score at 21-21. From here Northumbria crumbled and Ilube was able to score a second try to take Newcastle to a final 28-21 victory over a team a whole BUCS division above them.
The match marked the first time the two first teams have played each other since September 2016, and Newcastle's win will no doubt play on the minds of Northumbria who, having finished second in the BUCS Super Rugby league, face Bath in the Championship Cup quarter-finals this evening. For Newcastle, though, The Big One was a great way to end one of the club's most successful seasons of recent times.
BUCS Big Wednesday, meanwhile, wasn't all that big for Newcastle this year, with our sole representatives the women's water polo first team. Their outstanding performance this season saw them reach the final of the Championship Cup, but on the day their Durham opposition were just too powerful and beat Newcastle 16-3.
Silver medals are also in the post to Newcastle's darts team, who travelled to Lancaster for the Big Weekender. After storming their way through the group stage unbeaten they notched up wins against Lancaster staff (who were eligible to play at the student event) and Sheffield in the knockout stages, but were narrowly defeated by Nottingham Trent in the final. This didn't dampen the spirits of NUDS' mighty twitter feed, however, who provided excellent commentary throughout the competition.[pullquote]The men's first football team currently sit top of the premier division of the Northern Football Alliance[/pullquote]
And more second placed finishes in the North West came in the korfball, where Newcastle's newest AU club followed the pattern set by their darts counterparts. This time Manchester was the setting, but Newcastle smashed through the group stages, quarters and semis before a very narrow loss in the final. With the final match score at 9-9 it came down to penalties, but Sheffield Hallam scraped the win and the Nighthawks had to make do with silver medals. Still, not a bad result for a club that only started in the autumn.
After their fourth successive top-two finish in the BUCS Northern 1A league, the men's first football team now turn their attention to the local Northern Football Alliance, where they currently sit top of the premier division. A 3-2 win over Whitley Bay A followed last week's 5-1 victory in the semi-final of the beautifully titled Reeves Independent George Dobbins League Cup. They'll meet Whitley Bay A again, though, in the final of the equally well-titled Northumberland FA Scott's Les Todd Benevolent Bowl on 4 May.
Far, far away from Whitley Bay, Newcastle's Sailing and Yachting Club are hoping to match this kind of success as the compete against the nation's finest student sailors at the BUSA Yachting Championships on the Solent. Coincidentally, I'm also Solent-side at the minute, although I'm planning to stay firmly on land. Lovely part of the world, the Solent, and slap bang in the middle of England's South Coast.
After a strong performance in the first race on Monday, Newcastle's team lagged behind in the second and have struggled to make up the time lost by the half way mark of the overall competition. With five races still to go, however, there's still time for the sailors to turn things around.