The Big Interview: Toby Flood on his second Falcons swoop
Toby Flood will be the first to admit that not everything has gone to plan on the pitch for Newcastle Falcons this season.
Sat at the foot of the table with three wins from their opening ten fixtures, Falcons have struggled at times to live up to the dizzying heights of last season that saw them clinch their highest league finish since 1998.
However, with Falcons earning a spot in the Champions Cup for the first time since 2005, Flood’s men have soared on the continent, digging in their talons to secure back-to-back victories against triple champions Toulon and Montpellier.
While reluctant to suggest that the Falcons “overachieved” last campaign, the 60-times capped England international believes expectations have shifted permanently for the Kingston Park outfit.
“Last year was a great year in terms of what we achieved – perhaps we overachieved as a few results went our way with last minute wins away at Northampton and Leicester and Bath early on in the season,” he said.
“I don’t want to use the word overachieve because the reality is that we won games that we probably have deserved to win, but there were games that could have gone either way.
“This year has been very frustrating in terms of the results that haven’t gone our way: we had a bonus points win against Wasps snatched away from us and a bonus point kicked away from us against Saracens when we were in a good position with a couple of minutes to go.
“I think if you look at the Exeter Chiefs game it was a dogfight and that could have gone our way too. I think we are just a little bit on the wrong side of results and I think that has been frustrating more than anything else.
“We are not overly concerned because we still believe we are a decent side, but ultimately it shows the competitiveness of the Premiership now.
“The game where we beat Worcester Warriors away, we had two guys in the bin for a long time and Worcester would have been kicking themselves that they didn’t win that match.”
But after earning successive league victories against Bath Rugby and Northampton Saints, suddenly life on Tyneside has become a whole lot rosier for Dean Richards’ men.
With just four points separating Bath in sixth and Falcons in twelfth in the Gallagher Premiership table, Flood admitted to being blown away by the ever-increasing standard on show.
“The league is so competitive and so interesting because you have to be right on your game to get results,” said the fly-half.
“You can’t predict rugby at the moment, I just don’t think you can predict who’s going to win a game.
“It’s become really difficult for teams to work out who’s going to play. One team is a couple of errors away from losing games.
“It’s definitely become a much harder league to predict and to play in because players are better, and you don’t have two or three guys you can potentially target in a match.
“Now tight fives move like backs and the front rows are as quick and big as wingers. You look at it as a product and realise it’s great, but also not great as a player to earn your points and score your tries.
“Although it’s frustrating to lose a couple of games, and especially in the manner that we have done, there’s belief and awareness that we have to get things right.
“We are fairly positive here and a couple of good results would really get our season going.”
Nobody embodies Newcastle’s fighting spirit quite like Flood, who’s revelling in his second spell in the North East after leaving his home club to join Leicester Tigers ten years ago.
Breaking through the ranks while studying at Northumbria University, the Frimley-born back is still delivering when it matters as shown by the telling touch he produced to convert for a last-gasp victory against Northampton Saints last time out.
💯 up for Toby Flood tonight in Newcastle Falcons colours. Big game ahead! Tickets still available from the stadium. pic.twitter.com/c2EuioNljM
— Newcastle Falcons (@FalconsRugby) November 23, 2018
Now 33, Flood, who brought up his century of appearances for the Falcons against Bath, has spoken of his desire to have a fairy-tale ending to his career at the club where it all began.
“Newcastle is where I grew up and it’s a place I hold dear; being in the North East it’s such a great place to live,” he said.
“I am proud to be back here at the club where it all started. We are just trying to make sure that it is a good season.
“You always have an affinity for the club that you started at and I certainly have an affinity for Newcastle.
“It’s interesting to think of it as a book-end, I suppose there is that idea that you start and finish at the same club which is quite romantic.
“Sadly, professional sport isn’t always that romantic and sometimes the reality is that if you think you can keep playing and they don’t think you can. Then if another club wants you, you might make that leap, but I would love to finish here.
“I will be 34 at the end of this contract, so touch wood the body still holds up and I’ll be OK and have another go at it.
“I am feeling pretty decent body-wise at the moment and I am sure my body will let me know when it’s time to call it a day.
“If there’s a chance to stay here and play a few more years that would be great.”