WORLD Cup trio Jonny Wilkinson, Toby Flood and Mathew Tait can’t arrive back quickly enough for injury-hit Newcastle.
But the chances of them being rushed back into action for the forthcoming EDF and European Challenge Cups depends very much on how each player feels, reckons Falcons boss John Fletcher.
While Toby Flood might want to be back in action as soon as possible, given he has not had a busy World Cup in terms of playing time, Wilkinson and Tait may well need a rest after three weeks of high-stress rugby.
But with another England player Jamie Noon still two to three weeks away from fitness with a knee injury and All Black centre Mark Mayerhofler also sidelined, Newcastle are looking a bit thin behind the scrum – especially with Aussie full back Matt Burke limping off yesterday with a knee injury as Newcastle were thumped 33-20.
Bath ran in five tries – it could have more – against injury-hit Newcastle, who lacked ideas, but more crucially, any bite in defence.
Director of rugby Fletcher said: “We’ll know about Matt’s injury tomorrow and we will assess the situation with the World Cup players when they get back.
“You have to deal with each player on an individual basis and we will do that when they return.
“Jamie Noon is two to three weeks away and, to be honest, we need the break from the Premiership. We will look at what sort of squad we can put together for the EDF and European Challenge Cups.
“Our defence was appalling today. We were all over the place and it was a nightmare.
There’s not a lot you can say to the players, they know. Bath are a good side but we did make it far too easy for them. It was a bad day. We started badly and didn’t improve.
“When we had the ball we were okay but we didn’t put then under any real pressure because when they got the ball, they scored.”
In a curiously low-key match Newcastle found themselves 10-0 down inside the first six minutes when they allowed Bath to run the show and Shaun Berne made the most of it kicking an early penalty and shrugging off Andy Perry’s weak tackle to score under the posts for a swift 10 points.
It could have been 15-0 when Ian Davey shot over in the corner but Danny Grewcock’s pass to the winger was fractionally forward as was that of Michael Claasens to Berne as he went over in the opposite corner.
Both were big let-offs for Newcastle but their luck couldn’t last and when Classens darted in as the Falcons failed to ground a bouncing ball behind their own line, the scrum half was awarded the try after referee Rob Debney went to the television match official.
Newcastle finally got their act together with a succession of rucks and Tom May scored his fourth try in four home games with a searing close-range run.
Matt Burke converted just before half-time for 15-7 and then clawed another three points back with a 47th-minute penalty. But then the Falcons failure to nail their first-time tackles cost them dear when big lock Peter Short trundled through. The ball was moved back inside for Ian Davey to step through three tackles and score Bath’s third try.
Burke’s second penalty cut Bath’s lead to seven points before he limped off injured.
Michael Stephenson skidded over in the corner for Bath’s bonus point try and there seemed no way back for Newcastle especially when Ryan Davis kicked a 68th minute drop goal.
And there wasn’t, and when May was unable to gather a kick through Bath moved it wide for Matt Banahan to rumble over in the corner to make 33-12. There was, though, still time for Joe Shaw to score the Falcons’ second try down the left and Steve Jones converted for 33-20.
Scoring: Berne (P 2min) 0-3; Berne (T and C 6min) 0-10; Classens (T 21min) 0-15; May (T) and Burke (C 37min) 7-15; Burke (P 47min) 10-15; Davey (T 50min) 10-20; Burke (P 57min) 13-20; Stephenson (T 64min) 13-25; Davis (DG 68min) 13-28; Banahan (T 73min) 13-33; Shaw (T) and Jones (C 76min) 20-33.
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: M Burke (capt) (A Dehaty 62), T May, T Visser, J Shaw, J Rudd, S Jones, L Dickson (J Grindal 41), J Golding (J McDonnell 52), M Thompson (A Long 41), M Ward (D Wilson 41), A Perry (J Oakes 54), M Sorenson, G Parling (E Williamson 69), B Wilson, R Winter.
BATH: M Stephenson, I Davey (M Banahan 56), A Crockett (capt) (T Cheeseman 69), S Berne, A Higgins, R Davis, M Claassens (N Walshe 73), D Flatman (L Ovens 69), P Dixon (R Hawkins 53), P Ion, P Short, D Grewcock (J Faamatuainu 41), A Beattie, M Lipman (J Scaysbrook 44), D Browne.