Tait predicts another relegation fight next season

Bath 42 Newcastle 12
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The Independent Online

Newcastle head coach Alan Tait is already preparing for another tough relegation battle next season after the Falcons survived by the narrowest of margins in the final round of Premiership matches. It was not until several minutes after the whistle blew on this defeat that Tait and his squad learned that Leeds had finished bottom instead and spared them.

"They were five minutes behind us so we just decided as a group to wait out there on the pitch for the results," Tait said. "We got the word from the team manager – or rather his missus, who was having kittens at the other end of the phone."

Tait, who revealed that the fly-half Jimmy Gopperth had played with a torn knee cartilage, does not believe it will be much easier next year, adding: "I think we will go through it again next season. If I say my goal is to survive in the Premiership they'll say I'm negative. But I know where these players are and we need a couple of years to [improve them]."

He added: "I just saw tired bodies out there in the first half. Last week it was nerves. This week it was fatigue. I can't fault them for effort but we were put to the sword by a Bath team who themselves have a few injuries. I feel for Leeds, I do. We need to look at the relegation issue. What's it all for?"

For Bath head coach Steve Meehan, leaving the Recreation Ground by mutual consent, it was just as emotional an afternoon, especially when the capacity crowd welcomed him on to the pitch. "It was a lovely moment. It will stay with me and my family. If you could thank the supporters for that, it was with the rugby that we played," he said.

He thinks the club will improve further after his departure, adding: "I said to the players that it won't be long before they are travelling back along the M4 with the Premiership trophy. The club is in a good position to capitalise on a lot of good work done with the youngsters in recent seasons."

Asked if he could envisage a return to the Rec as an opposition coach, Meehan said: "I don't know how soon but I think I'd enjoy it. To come back with another team and to challenge would be pretty interesting."

Tries from Sam Vesty, Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, Matt Carraro and Matt Banahan gave Bath a 29-0 interval lead. Alex Tait and Luke Fielden hit back for Newcastle but although Jacques Boussuge scored late on, Northampton's win over Leeds saved Newcastle and ended Bath's season as they finished fifth and missed out on the play-offs.

Bath: Tries Vesty, Fernandez Lobbe, Carraro, Banahan, Boussuge. Conversions James 3, Vesty. Penalties James 3.

Newcastle: Tries Tait, Fielden. Conversion Manning

Bath Vesty; Biggs, Carraro, Banahan (Boussuge, 68), Abendanon; James (Williams, 68), Claassens (McMillan, 68); Flatman (Catt, 61), Mears (Dixon, 61), Lilley (Palma-Newport, 20), Fernandez-Lobbe, Grewcock, Skirving (Watson, 52), Moody (Mercer, 68), Taylor.

Newcastle Manning; Fielden, Tu'ipulotu, Fitzpatrick (Eves, 70), A Tait; Gopperth (Bobo, 47), Young (Pilgrim, 61); Golding (Shiels, 55), Thompson (Vickers, 47), Murray (Brookes, 55), Hudson, Van der Heijden (Swinson, 55), M Wilson, Gray, Hogg (Welch, 47).

Referee W Barnes (RFU).