ANDREW van der Heijden insists his Newcastle Falcons side will be going all-out to cement their own destiny this weekend, as the race for Aviva Premiership survival comes to a close.
The Falcons travel to Bath knowing that a win would keep them safe from the drop, with the losing bonus point picked up in last weekend’s home defeat to the same opposition leaving Newcastle one point ahead of fellow strugglers Leeds.
A vastly superior points difference effectively extends that lead further, and Leeds travel to Heineken Cup finalists Northampton on Saturday knowing that a minimum of two points is required to give them even a fighting chance of survival.
Determined not to rely on the Saints doing his side a favour, however, van der Heijden said: “We are not saying that we are safe, because we know that anything can happen. We have to go down to Bath and get the win to keep us up, and if we can do that then it removes any doubt whatsoever.”
Having lost 14-11 to the West Country side in last Saturday’s Kingston Park encounter, there were unusual scenes as the Falcons kicked the ball dead on the final whistle rather than going all-out for the win.
“We were obviously trying to win the game, but getting any points was a target in the end with the way the league table is looking,” said van der Heijden, with head coach Alan Tait echoing the Kiwi’s sentiments.
“It’s a tough one to explain to people, the fact that we took the final whistle at three points down, but the lads did the right thing in the end,” said the Scot.
“We had slow ball inside our own 22 and, in the past, we would have tried to play our way out of trouble and coughed up possession.
“If we had done that and Bath had denied us the losing bonus point, then everybody would have been fuming, but I was happy with the maturity that the lads showed in just running down the final few seconds and getting the ball off the pitch.”
Managing to find some positives from a below-par performance, van der Heijden said: “The determination of the boys has impressed me, and when we had the ball we really looked to make use of it. Obviously our line-out needs some work doing on it, because it wasn’t up to scratch, but we will just get on with that behind the scenes and look to improve on last weekend.
“Defending for as long as we did really takes it out of you, and we have to try and get on the ball much more so that we can try and drain Bath’s energy levels the same way they did with ours.”
Facing up against the same opposition for the second time in seven days this Saturday, the Aucklander added: “We are just looking forward to this weekend now, but we know it will be tough because Bath have shown a bit of what they are about.”
“Their pick-and-go was outstanding. They recycled the ball well and didn’t give away penalties, and it was incredibly hard to turn them over with the way they looked after the ball. These are all things we can learn as we look to develop our own game in the future, but it’s all about the weekend now and getting our future sorted out.”
The Falcons will await injury updates this week on No 8 Ally Hogg, after leaving the field last weekend with a hamstring injury, although Bath’s problems could be more significant.
Prop forwards Davey Wilson and Duncan Bell both left the Kingston park encounter with second-half injuries, with Bell’s 70th minute exit seeing the first ever return to uncontested scrums since Aviva Premiership authorities implemented changes to the regulations.
Clubs must now field two props among their eight replacements, but Bath’s medical staff may well have their hands full to find the full complement after Saturday’s double blow.