Falcons out to seal safety
April 29, 2011
Newcastle will need another accurate goal-kicking display from Jimmy Gopperth if they are to see off Bath © Getty Images
Newcastle Falcons can take a massive step towards safety by winning Saturday's rearranged Aviva Premiership clash with Bath at Kingston Park.
Newcastle are level on points with basement boys Leeds but have a vital game in hand. Given that Leeds face a final-day trip to Northampton, the Falcons could easily stay up without managing to win either of their final two games, both of which, by a quirk of fate, are against Bath. However, Alan Tait's will be intent on getting the job done themselves rather than be left worrying about the outcome of Leeds' clash with the Saints.
As for Bath, they kept their faint hopes of play-off place alive by dismantling London Wasps at Adams Park last weekend and they will no doubt be targeting another maximum haul as they attempt to draw to within three points of the fourth-placed Saints.
Newcastle - Player to Watch: Skipper James Hudson returns in the second-row following injury and his leadership, and lineout nous, will be a welcom addition.
Newcastle - Team News: Aside from Hudson's return there are three further changes, with Gcobani Bobo (wing) and Micky Young (scrum-half) both back in action and Tim Swinson recalled at blindside.
Bath - Player to Watch: Matt Banahan gets another chance to prove his worth in midfield after a strong showing against Wasps, with the No.12 jersey again his.
Bath - Team News: Bath are unchanged for their trip north, with Sam Vesty starting at fly-half and the veteran lock duo of Danny Grewcock and Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe hoping to roll back the years for another week.
Key Battle: The Bath back-row of Ben Skirving, Lewis Moody and Simon Taylor are a formidable outfit and will hope to get the upper hand on the floor, causing Newcastle to become increasingly desperate.
Trivia: Newcastle have only won one of their last 12 games against Bath in all competitions.
Stats: Newcastle's Ally Hogg has conceded more offensive penalties, 15, than any other player this season.
"Whatever happens this weekend there is always a mathematical chance for Leeds, and we have to keep battling away until the end." - Newcastle boss Alan Tait.
"We now have two massive games ahead of us that we need to win. We still believe the top four is within our grasp, but it is partly out of our hands now." - Bath prop Duncan Bell.
Fantasy: Tom Biggs bagged a hat-trick against Wasps, which is worth a few points in the ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game. Time to add him to your side?
Prediction: Newcastle will fight for all they are worth but Bath will have too much firepower for the Falcons to handle.
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