Miserable and pointless at the foot of the Premiership, Bath face an anxious 24 hours on the personnel front as a result of the brawl that disfigured the last rites of their weekend defeat by Newcastle at the Recreation Ground.
Half the West Country club's pack were involved in an incident that saw Phil Dowson, the visiting No 8, receive a red card from the referee, Steve Lander, and Tom May, the Falcons' wing, sent to the sin-bin. A Rugby Football Union citing officer must now decide if further action is necessary.
Rob Andrew, Newcastle's director of rugby, is adamant that Dowson was a victim of mistaken identity, and will put forward a case to that effect when his player appears before an RFU tribunal in Coventry next Tuesday night. He is not, however, thought likely to intervene on behalf of May, and any temptation he might feel to draw the citing officer's attention to misdemeanours committed by Bath players will probably be resisted. Mass dust-ups tend to be a two-way street, and there would be nothing to prevent Bath from pointing the finger at Newcastle in retaliation.
Under this season's disciplinary procedure, an independently recorded video of each Premiership game is sent to the RFU within 48 hours of the final whistle. Citing officials then have 36 hours from receipt of the tape to make recommendations to the disciplinary officer, Jeff Blackett. Action can be taken against players for any incident, irrespective of whether it was dealt with at the time by the match officials.
Two of Bath's outstanding forwards, the lock Steve Borthwick and the flanker Andy Beattie, were involved in the fight on Saturday, and would be serious losses to last season's Premiership runners-up as they attempt to recover from two heavy reverses.
"A couple of defeats at the start of a season can be written off as ring-rust," said John Connolly, the head coach, who has seen his side leak eight tries in 160 minutes of competitive rugby after losing the services of Brian Smith, the architect of the unprecedentedly successful defensive system that took Bath to the Grand Final four months ago. "Three defeats would suggest losing has become as much of a habit as winning was last season." Bath play Worcester at Sixways this weekend.
There is contrasting news from the southern hemisphere. Jonah Lomu, the New Zealand wing, has started running following his kidney transplant operation in July. However, the former Wallaby lock David Giffin, appointed assistant coach of Australia only last week, will miss his team's tour of Britain and France in November because of the condition of his two-year-old son Joseph, who is suffering from cancer.
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