Bath go top against poor Falcons
Bath tuned up for their return to Europe next week with a 45-12 win over Newcastle, and returned to the top of the Allied Dunbar Premiership - but only for 24 hours.
As the league campaign swung into action in earnest after the World Cup today, they ran in five tries against struggling Newcastle Falcons to pick up three points for the win. But they have a mounting toll of injuries as they face next weekend's Heineken opener against Toulouse at the Recreation Ground.
A hamstring strain ruled England full-back Matt Perry out of the team 24 hours before kick-off, calling into question his involvement in next week's showpiece.
He will not have played any serious rugby since England's defeat by South Africa three weeks ago.
His continued absence meant that assistant coach Jon Callard continued in the number 15 shirt, and the hero of Bath's 1998 triumph against Brive in Bordeaux contributed 25 points in the demolition of Newcastle with a try, four penalties and four conversions.
However Newcastle could hardly have asked for a better start. Just 57 seconds had elapsed when Va'aiga Tuigamala brushed off Mike Catt and Phil de Glanville with embarrassing ease to lay on an unconverted try for full-back Stuart Legg.
Callard soon nosed Bath in front with two penalties before a floated pass by Catt put Iain Balshaw in for a try on 19 minutes. Although Callard missed a conversion, a third penalty saw Bath turn around 14-5 in front.
On 52 minutes Callard claimed his try, backing up a powerful run by left-wing Kevin Maggs and converting.
Ben Clarke took a long pass from Gareth Cooper to claim the next just six minutes later, but the score was not without its cost as de Glanville went off with a leg injury after setting up the score.
Callard's kicks helped Bath stretch away to a 31-5 lead before a powerful run on the blind side gave Tuigamala a well deserved try on 66 minutes, which Dave Walder converted.
But Maggs squeezed in at the corner for Bath five minutes later, and Clarke followed up a rampaging run by Ben Sturnham to score the fifth. Callard converted both tries.
Newcastle director of rugby Rob Andrew described his team's performance as "totally unacceptable". "OK, we've had a difficult start to the season, everyone knows that, but we have all our internationals back now and we played well in the last couple of games.
"The players have got to realise it's just not good enough at this level. It's a tough environment especially away from home. You have to play so much better to get anything. Today we got exactly what we deserved," said the former England fly- half.