Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 0-21 Bath Rugby

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Friday 6 September 2013 – 7.45pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #1

That was quite disappointing, ay? Nobody expected a 50-0 win on our first appearance back in the Premiership but to be nilled and not even look like scoring a point in the second half was a bit depressing. One person thought it was the worst Falcons performance he’d ever seen, though I can’t agree with that.

When you’ve seen an 80-point defeat at Leicester, you always have some perspective, or try to.

But I think Dean Richards will have plenty to think about when he watches the video back. Attacking the South Stand in the first half, the Falcons probably looked more likely to score a try with a lot of good drives towards the stout Bath defence, but the backs looked a bit confused. Phil Godman did not have a great return to the Premiership, particularly with the boot.

George Ford’s boot put Bath ahead at the break and the Plugs turned the screw afterwards to score two tries through the driving maul, one of which Andy Saull will no doubt be very disappointed about after slapping at the onrushing players who broke through a maul rather than getting stuck in. Not that one isolated player can do much against four of course.

After all the hype, Saull had a quiet debut, in contrast to his fellow flanker Dominic Barrow who really put himself about and showed that he could develop into a very powerful Premiership player. Some big tackles and drives set the example for the Falcons to follow.

I was also impressed with Kieran Brookes, and the front row was strong in general in the scrum. The scrum looked much weaker when the replacement front row of Gary Strain, George McGuigan and Scott Wilson came on, once being literally overrun by the Bath pack. Not often you see that these days.

The new scrum laws, seen for the first time in competitive action in England, seemed to contribute to far fewer collapses as the front rows bound and came together far easier. It looks a lot cleaner and when you think back to some games where we lost literally five minutes of rugby time at some scrums, it’s got to be an improvement as long as it continues. Like in Hawick last week, I noticed Wayne Barnes sometimes looking at nothing but the put-in, and you’d imagine that props will exploit that if referees do not work out how to see everything, or at least work with the touch judges to ensure nothing untoward goes on.

Bath’s dominance in the second half and Anthony Perenise’s opening try seemed to knock the confidence out of the Falcons for the last 20 minutes of the game. They seemed to have no ambition other than to defend, and it was surprising that Joel Hodgson was not thrown on to try to bring some spark.

The penalty try will have been a big blow and was a little confusing for me at least, as Barnes did not seem to put out an arm and nor did it look like anything was wrong, it was either held up or a try.

If we are looking at statistics then we might write off last night since we never beat Bath at home, and look forward to the next home game against Gloucester, who have not won at KP since 2007. But with an already-crucial game at Sale coming up, followed by an always-difficult trip to Leicester, last night was a reminder of the harsh realities of the Premiership. It is an utterly ruthless and unforgiving league, and the Falcons need to reduce the penalty count and take their opportunities when they can, as we didn’t in the first half.

Welcome back to the top!

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

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