NEWCASTLE Falcons director of rugby Gary Gold admitted his side had produced the worst performance of his reign as they slumped to a 42- 15 defeat at Leicester Tigers.
The thumping reverse at Welford Road leaves Falcons six points adrift of safety at the foot of the Aviva Premiership table with six games of the season to play.
Their task is unlikely to get any easier when they entertain league leaders Harlequins on Friday evening, and while Gold questioned a number of the decisions that went against his side at Leicester, he admits they will have to improve markedly if they are to ease their relegation fears in four days time.
“Full credit must go to Leicester because they are a quality team, and their confidence was buoyant after beating the champions (Saracens) away from home last week,” said the South Africa.
“In saying that, this was our worst performance by a country mile and I am very disappointed by what I saw out there.
“When the penalty count is 12-4 against us and we have two yellow cards to none from Leicester, it is tough to take.
I have the benefit of hindsight in seeing the replays, but I am mystified by some of those calls.
“It is too much of a coincidence that so many of them went towards the home side, but that is not the reason we lost the game.
“The reason we lost is because we were very poor in the first half whereas Leicester were very good, and we were beaten in every facet of the game.”
Newcastle fell behind as early as the sixth minute and were repeatedly given the run-around by a Leicester side that were marshalled superbly by teenage fly-half George Ford, who is the son of Falcons defence coach Mike.
Julian Salvi, Billy Twelvetrees and Horacio Agulla scored tries before the break as Newcastle struggled to cope with the loss of James Fitzpatrick, who was sent to the sin bin for a loose tackle.
Jimmy Gopperth’s penalty got the visitors on the board, but Leicester chalked up a bonus point when Thomas Waldrom scored from a rolling maul at the start of the second half.
Jonny Golding claimed Newcastle’s opening try shortly after, but after Taisana Tu’ifua became the second Falcons player to be sin binned, Waldrom crossed for another Leicester score.
Niall Morris made it six Tigers tries, and while Richard Mayhew claimed a late consolation score, Newcastle headed north with their relegation problems mounting.
NEWCASTLE: Goosen (Hodgson 67), Bedford (Sheriffe 58), Helleur, Fitzpatrick, Manning, Gopperth, Pilgrim (Chudley 51); Shiells (Golding 41), Vickers (M Mayhew 67), Murray (Wells 67), van der Heijden (Tu’ifua 51), Swinson, Hogg, Welch (R Mayhew 67), Wilson.
• Forwards coach Dorian West was left satisfied at a good job done as Northampton moved up to third place in the Aviva Premiership thanks to a bonus-point victory over London Irish at the Madejski.
There were seven tries in a thrilling match which Northampton won 30-23 thanks to a last-gasp try which originated from a charge down.
West said: “We were totally focused on London Irish today. We thought that if we turned up here and were physical that we could do a job on them and that is how it proved.”