Steve Diamond: Newcastle’s bus ride home from Bristol demolition like a six-hour funeral

Steve Diamond

Newcastle Falcons’ bus journey back from Bristol was described as “like going to a funeral for six hours” by their consultant director of rugby, Steve Diamond, after the club were trounced 85-14 on Sunday.

The result fell narrowly short of being Newcastle’s heaviest-ever defeat, which came back in 2005 when Newcastle lost 83-10 to Leicester Tigers. The Falcons, operating on the league’s smallest budget, are yet to win this season, with Diamond emphasising the long-term vision for the club ahead of facing his former side, Sale, this Sunday.

”[The bus] wasn’t deadly silent, but it wasn’t far off. It was like going to a funeral for six hours,” said Diamond. “I’m a big believer in not being reactionary. We weren’t going down the bus every 20 minutes and giving them a b---------.

“I give credit to Bristol on the day, because they scored 47 points in the first and then 38 in the second half, which is difficult to do. In fact, not being disrespectful to my own team, I don’t think we could score 85 points at the minute if no one was against us. It’s difficult to do what they did.

“I’m not being lighthearted and joking around, it’s that we have moved on. In 20 years of coaching this has happened three of four times, let’s see if we get the reaction. If we run Sale close or can scrape a win, or if we lose and play well, it’s another stepping stone for next season where there will be some harder-core players arriving and some of the players who have not performed for a year or two here will be departing. It’s a vital process we have to go through, however brutal it is.”

Ellis Genge, the Bristol and England prop, discussed his side’s big win over Newcastle on The Good, The Bad and The Rugby podcast alongside Jonny May and James Haskell, saying that he didn’t feel the result “is good for the game, winning like that, in what is meant to be a top-flight competition”.

Genge continued: “I don’t think there should be a disparity like that for a team that has the history which that club has. I know what’s happening there, and there are some really good players and people at that club are good friends of mine.” Genge added that Bristol’s replacements stopped celebrating after Newcastle conceded their ninth try. “You should have seen some of their faces. I thought f--- me, it’s not a good spot [for them].”

Ellis Genge
Ellis Genge says Bristol stopped celebrating scoring tries against Newcastle out of pity for their opponents - Bob Bradford/CameraSport via Getty Images

With no relegation Newcastle’s sole motivation is to finish the campaign with a first Premiership win, avoiding the ignominy of becoming the first team to go winless in a Premiership campaign since London Welsh in 2014-15. Newcastle’s remaining fixtures are at home to Sale and Bath before travelling to Gloucester, currently one place above them in ninth, on the final day.

Diamond admitted that given the club’s blend of youngsters, with five 19-year-olds in the matchday squad against Bristol, and combination of departing players either with future clubs lined up or without, getting everybody on the same page was a challenge.

“With our young kids, it’s massive exposure for them to be involved in a game like that when they’re behind the posts like that, and not because people are out of breath but because they don’t know what’s happened. A result like that away from home at 18, 19 years of age is like four months of learning,” Diamond explained.

“It’s two steps forward [with good performances in defeats to Leicester and Exeter] and a big step back. The game is such now that if you’re not mentally on it... and that’s for me to get right. To take a line from Eddie Jones: ‘Did I prepare the team as well as I could have done.’ At the end of the day, anybody who knows me, you don’t blame the players. There is a mindset, a preparation. We conceded three tries in the first 11 minutes. Uncharted waters, not seen anything like it for a long time.

“Up until we get to the end of this season, it is difficult to get everyone on the same wavelength and direction. And that’s not making excuses, that’s just telling you as it is. I’ve had that conversation with them today. The old-school bit about me is, if you haven’t got a contract then you are in the shop window. If that’s what you are putting in the shop window you are not going to sell your wares very well moving forward. If you are a kid, you want to express yourself in front of me and the coaches. If you are leaving, you need a job. And if you are staying, you have to play better than that.”