Newcastle Falcons 19, Gloucester 12.

GIVEN that it was Friday the 13th yesterday, it was perhaps inevitable that Jonny Wilkinson's bad luck with injuries would return to haunt the Newcastle Falcons fly-half at Kingston Park.

Starting his fourth successive match for the first time this season, Wilkinson failed to reach the full-time whistle as a rib injury left him in obvious pain during the early stages of the second half.

His premature departure did not prevent Newcastle from recording a 19-12 victory that extended their unbeaten home record to an impressive nine matches and also prevented Gloucester from pulling clear of Leicester at the top of the Guinness Premiership.

But the latest in a long line of injury problems to have affected Wilkinson in recent years could yet prove severe enough to jeopardise his involvement in England's summer tour of South Africa.

The fly-half's early exit was the only blight on an otherwise successful evening for a Falcons side who could yet end an inconsistent campaign in the top half of the table.

Head coach John Fletcher insisted there would be no complacency following last week's home win over Northampton, a result that secured Newcastle's Premiership status.

His words initially seemed hollow when lax handling errors from both Matt Burke and Phil Dowson, making his first start for more than five months following a bicep injury, led to the highly-rated Ryan Lamb kicking two straightforward penalties in the opening 15 minutes.

But after Wilkinson sandwiched those kicks with a penalty of his own, the hosts took advantage of some uncharacteristic sloppiness from their opponents to claim the only try of the game midway through the first half.

Wilkinson charged down fellow fly-half Lamb's attempted drop goal - a case of the master undoing his potential international apprentice if ever there was one - and after he slipped the ball inside, Toby Flood impudently weaved his way past the covering Iain Balshaw to run the ball home from the best part of 50 yards.

Wilkinson's conversion established a four-point lead and, while Lamb's precise kicking to the corner set up a number of dangerous line-outs close to the Newcastle line, the home side's forwards, led by the impressively industrious Dowson, displayed sufficient resolution to snuff out Gloucester's close-range threat.

The visitors' forwards were somewhat less disciplined, and a needless line-out infringement allowed Wilkinson to kick the Falcons 13-6 ahead, although Lamb landed a long-range penalty of his own on the stroke of half-time to reduce the arrears.

For two teams who are regularly lauded as the most incisive outfits in the Premiership, the standard of play was surprisingly poor, with a succession of handling errors and misplaced passes wrecking a number of promising attacking platforms.

If anything, Gloucester, already guaranteed a place in the end-of-season play-offs, were the worst offenders, although Newcastle's repeated failure to gather in their own line-out ball ensured the visitors always remained in touch.

They might not have done had Matt Burke not been held up on the line following incisive bursts from both Flood and John Rudd, with the tackle to deny the former coming at a price as England centre Mike Tindall was forced to leave the field on a stretcher following an awkward high-speed collision.

Tindall's summer trip to South Africa could be at risk as a result, and national coach Brian Ashton will hardly have been pleased at the sight of Wilkinson stumbling from the field clutching his injured ribs minutes later.

Flood took over Newcastle's kicking duties as a result, and the youngster's first act as stand-in fly-half was to land a long-range penalty from the right touchline on the hour mark.

His second was another success from distance that extended his side's lead to 19-9 and, while replacement Willie Walker guaranteed Gloucester a losing bonus point with a late kick of his own, Newcastle successfully ran down the clock without conceding again.

Newcastle have confirmed that flanker Mike McCarthy will rejoin Irish province Connacht at the end of the current campaign.

NEWCASTLE: Burke (Crichton 51mins), Rudd, Tait, Noon, Flood, Wilkinson (May 55mins), Dickson (Grindal 78mins); McDonnell, Thompson (Long 41mins), Ward (D Wilson 58mins), Perry (Oakes 45mins), Buist, Parling, Woods, Dowson (B Wilson 74mins).

GLOUCESTER: Balshaw (Walker 54mins), Bailey (Narraway 69mins), Tindall (Keil 46mins), Allen, Foster, Lamb, Lawson (Richards 50mins); Wood, Azam, Nieto, James (Brown 56mins), Bortolami, Buxton, Boer, Forrester.

Jason Robinson brought down the curtain on his club career with a fairytale last-minute try to beat Bath 25-23.

The Sharks had looked like they would be unable to provide the 32-year-old with a perfect send-off in his 160th game but Robinson crossed with less than ten seconds left to guarantee Sale's Guinness Premiership status in some style.

They had looked doomed but Robinson burst on to the ball 30 metres out and tore past the Bath defence to give his domestic career the perfect finish.