Tindall spares tepid Bath

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The Independent Online

If there is some slight sense of dissatisfaction at the Recreation Ground these days it can't be anything to do with their league position. After losing by the odd point in 65 at Sale on the opening day, Bath have now won four on the reel.

If there is some slight sense of dissatisfaction at the Recreation Ground these days it can't be anything to do with their league position. After losing by the odd point in 65 at Sale on the opening day, Bath have now won four on the reel.

But again, for a side who played the most spectacular rugby in going four months unbeaten during the spring, the quality of performance these days leaves a lot of the desired. And that's not just the view of the supporters but also of new chief coach Jon Callard and his players. Against Newcastle there was no glut of scoring the fans have come to expect, and it was a solitary try from England centre Mike Tindall that broke the deadlock on the hour.

Twelve months ago, Phil de Glanville was at the heart of England's World Cup preparations. On the fifth weekend of the 2000-2001 season the former national captain is not quite yesterday's man - and there is too much respect at the Rec for DG - but the sad fact is that he owed his place on the replacement bench yesterday to the knee ligament injury which will keep Jeremy Guscott out for a month.

Time then for the young Turks like Tindall to strut their stuff, or for Newcastle's young centre Jamie Noon, tipped to be in the England squad to be announced this week.

But without the injured Mike Catt's cutting edge in midfield the risk was that Bath would spin the ball wide without any serious intent. So it proved. Despite plenty of movement around the rucks and mauls, neither side threatened the try-line in the first half.

Jon Preston, as reliable in a Bath shirt as he was in the silver fern of New Zealand, opened the scoring with a penalty on six minutes. However, Jonny Wilkinson was quick to reply, firing a drop goal with his unfavoured right boot before adding penalties on 20 and 26 minutes. Although Preston responded immediately with another penalty, Bath trailed 9-6 at the interval as the game deteriorated into a shapeless tussle for possession.

It was a much hungrier Bath who emerged in the second half, Dan Lyle replacing Nathan Thomas at No 8.

The first sign of greater urgency however was a punch-up between the forwards which resulted in Bath skipper Ben Clarke departing with a split eye. The deadlock was finally broken by a typically muscular score from Tindall on 61 minutes.For the only time in the game Australian fly-half Shaun Berne slipped between two defenders, finding Gavin Thomas and Lyle in support before Preston, Matt Perry and Angus Gardiner gave Tindall the sniff of the line he needed.

Preston converted and also added two further penalties as Newcastle lost their shape.The scrum creaked, ball was spilled in the tackle and even the presence of Inga Tuigamala could not inspire their back line. The injury-time penalty by Wilkinson which earned his side a point for being within seven points was scant consolation.

Bath: M Perry; I Balshaw, M Tindall (de Glanville, 66), K Maggs, A Adebayo; S Berne, J Preston; D Barnes, M Regan, C Horsman (J Mallett, 63), M Haag, S Borthwick, A Gardiner, B Clarke (G Thomas, 51), N Thomas (D Lyle, 40).

Newcastle: R Cook; L Botham, J Noon, J Leslie (Tuigamala, 40), E Taione; J Wilkinson, G Armstrong; G Graham, R Nesdale, I Peel, S Grimes, D Weir (H Vyvyan, 63), R Arnold, A Mower, R Beattie.

Referee: C White (London).

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