Wilkinson in charge as Falcons fly over Bath

Bath 18 - Newcastle 33
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The Independent Online

There was a time when everyone knew where to find Bath - at the top of the rugby pile. Now the club appears to have lost its way and followers from half a dozen years ago would need a map to discover where they are this morning - at the bottom of the Premiership.

There was a time when everyone knew where to find Bath - at the top of the rugby pile. Now the club appears to have lost its way and followers from half a dozen years ago would need a map to discover where they are this morning - at the bottom of the Premiership.

They can still find the goal line and score tries, but far too late to save themselves, and far fewer than their opponents. That was the case here.

Even when Newcastle were reduced to 14 men - and eventually 13 in the final minute of normal time when the No 8 Phil Dowson was shown a red card for punching - they could find no way through.

"I think it was mistaken identity," Rob Andrew, the Newcastle director of rugby, referring to the red card. The feeling is that the referee, Steve Lander, and his touch judge confused the No 8 with another player.

Whether Bath also deserved to have lost a man in the fracas is a moot point, what is not in dispute is that they did not deserve to win. For the second week running they allowed their mistakes to be punished. The missed tackle count must have gone off the register.

Little wonder that their director of rugby, John Connolly, decided that he would call them in for an extra training session yesterday morning. "You cannot let something like this happen and not address the problems," the Australian said.

Their errors allowed Newcastle to join elevated company of winning teams at The Rec - last season only Wasps managed the feat.The Falcons' superior backs, not least centre Jamie Noon, were able to swoop in at will and scoop a bonus point as well."That was as good as any win we have had," Jonny Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson, on the sidelines for the past eight months, came through his second match unscathed and the rest appears to have done the England fly-half good. He did miss a couple of kicks, but given the way he directed affairs with assurance and vision, Newcastle and England will settle for that.

"I am picking up a little bit more of my instinctive stuff with each game," Wilkinson added. "But it is not easy." He certainly made it look like that. As for Bath, they need to brush up on their map reading.

Bath: Tries Borthwick, Daniel 2; Penalty Malone. Newcastle: Tries McCarthy, May 2, Stephenson; Conversions Wilkinson 2; Penalty Wilkinson; Drop goals Wilkinson 2.

Bath: J Maddock; A Crockett (R Fleck, 60), M Tindall, S Davey, B Daniel; C Malone, M Wood (N Walshe, 74); D Barnes, J Humphreys (capt; L Mears, 46), D Bell (M Stevens, 23), S Borthwick, D Grewcock, A Beattie, I Feaunati (G Delve, 74), M Lipman (J Scaysbrook, 56).

Newcastle: J Shaw (M Burke, 60); T May, J Noon, M Mayerhofler, M Stephenson; J Wilkinson (co-capt), J Grindal (H Charlton, 60); I Peel (co-capt; M Ward, 31), A Long (M Thompson, 56), M Hurter (I Peel, 55), L Gross, S Grimes, M McCarthy, P Dowson, C Charvis.

Referee: S Lander (Warrington).

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