Test on the Tyne: Newcastle v Bath
By P G Tips
November 21 2018
Bath face a test on the Tyne at Kingston Park on Friday night. They have failed to win on their past five visits to the northeast since autumn of 2015. Newcastle Falcons, bottom of the Premiership, will be desperate to add to their sole league win and will provide a stern test of Bath’s resolve, recovery, resilience and depth of resources. Depleted by injuries, international calls and concerns over the artificial surface, can Bath field sufficient experience and quality to win?
Falcons’ Premiership fortunes do not tell the full story of their season. Unbeaten in the Premiership Rugby Cup and having won both their Heineken European matches – away in Toulon and at home to Montpellier- their supporters will hope they can recover the swashbuckling style of last season’s campaign. Their one Premiership win was away at Worcester, but they are rebuilding their home fortress and will be seeking a fourth consecutive home match without defeat.
The Geordies’ team sheet will be reduced by international calls to Mark Wilson and Goneva and potentially by injury to Joel Hodgson, rumoured to have a broken leg. In their absence they will look to McGuigan, Welsh, Green and Graham up front to provide the go forward, Young and Flood at halfback to provide the direction. Sinoti and Tait on the wings, with Stuart and Swiel lurking on the bench would seem to offer the main attacking threats.
Bath’s coaches will hope that Eddie Jones releases at least one of their locks. Another man of the Match performance from Elliott Stooke would be just the thing to rally the troops for this tough test. If not, with Charteris preferring not to play on artificial surfaces, Underhill and Louw on international duty and Faletau and Grant injured, the back five of the pack will look a little thin. At least Zach Mercer returns to bolster the loose forwards. If injury and release news is good I expect minimum changes to the match day 23 in order to build on the momentum of last week’s win over Worcester.
The win over Worcester will have restored confidence and may well have shown the way to go in a chilly Newcastle, with a hostile crowd. There were vulnerabilities though – poor defence at the set piece and an over reliance on the driving maul among them. In tough games when a win is all that matters, a kick for 3 points is a better gamble than a lineout for 7 and once a maul is in progress and stalled, overlaps should not be ignored. Pragmatic rugby must be the order of the day, built around Attwood, a fully firing front row and predatory loose forwards. For that style of game to work, tactical kicking will need to be more accurate than last Saturday.
If Bath can come away with a win they can look up the table with hope. The next two Premiership fixtures are against struggler s Sale and a Wasps side who suddenly seem out of sorts. Bath’s internationals will be back for those matches while Grant & Brew are expected to recover fitness in a week with Priestland and Faletau not far behind.
Bath must use the directness of Roberts and the guile of Willison to set targets in midfield, play the game in Newcastle’s territory, kick wisely and sparingly and take every point on offer. If they can do that, they should prevail. A win, at this stage, is all that matters.
Catt, Dunn, Thomas, Attwood, Garvey (Capt.), Ellis, Bayliss, Mercer. Chudley Burns. Vuna, Roberts, Willison, Rokodoguni. Homer
Replacements: V Rooyen, Batty, Perenise, Douglas, Reid.Cook, Wright McConnochie.
Lockwood, McGuigan, Welsh, Green, Davidson, Graham, Hardie, Chick. Young, Flood. Sinoti, Waldouck, Bettencourt, Tait. Hammersley.
Replacements: Cooper, Davison, Wilson, G Young, Burrows, Stuart, Swiel, Stevenson.
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2018:11:28:11:39:20 by P G Tips.