|Falcons skipper Carl Hayman has backed his Newcastle Falcons side to bounce back from last week’s nilling at Worcester, as Bath make the Guinness Premiership trip to Kingston Park on Sunday (kick-off 3pm).
The Falcons’ 13-0 loss at Sixways last time out saw them slip to ninth in the table, with Hayman stating: "It certainly didn’t go our way last weekend, starting on Friday night at Worcester and then finishing on Sunday evening with Leeds beating Wasps.
"Friday was the main disappointment, especially in not scoring any points down at Worcester. It was a lost opportunity to climb higher in the table against a side that we could quite easily have beaten, but we’ve been working hard in training and the boys are still very upbeat going into Sunday."
Highlighting attack as a key area for improvement, the All Black prop said: "If you look at the points and tries for and against, it’s clear that our defence is very competitive but that we’ve not been scoring enough tries.
"Our attack has been letting us down, and if we can get that right then we know we can push up the table. We’re working hard to address it, it’s an area we’re focusing on intently and we all know that we need to start getting over that try line again.
"We need to start taking a few more risks again. Obviously not stupid risks, but just giving ourselves more of a scoring chance when we get a sniff of an opportunity."
Refusing to be dragged into talk of a relegation dogfight, Hayman said: "There’s still 40-odd points up for grabs and virtually a third of the season left, so I wouldn’t say it’s as black and white as saying we’re in a survival scrap.
"There’s a lot of rugby to be played between now and the end of the season, and the way I see it is that we’re in a battle to try and make the top six and secure Heineken Cup rugby. Sure, if you look at the bottom of the table then there are a number of teams all within reach of each other around that area, and whilst we’re not hiding from that fact we’re just choosing to take the positive approach and look up rather than down."
Looking to secure a first league victory at Kingston Park since November, he admitted: "The home form is definitely worrying, because that impacts on our home supporters and we want to be getting results for them when they pay their hard-earned money to come and cheer us on every week. We’ve drawn more than our fair share, which shows we’re in touch with sides, but it’s frustrating for everyone including the players that we haven’t turned those into wins recently.
"Hopefully we can put that right on Sunday, because I know the fans are looking forward to a home victory. Kingston Park traditionally has been somewhere that away teams haven’t enjoyed coming to, and we’ve enjoyed a fair degree of success here. That hasn’t always been the case this season, and you can sense the fans’ understandable frustrations. We really want to do it for those guys, it’s definitely a motivating factor and hopefully Sunday will put some of that disappointment to bed."
Looking to rectify last Friday’s unexpected wobble in the scrum, Hayman said: "It’s a bit of a shame really, because we’d been doing so well in that area.
"We played against a good Worcester pack who had done their homework well, so in that sense every credit to them and we aren’t going to make excuses here. They caused us some problems in the scrum, and it’s often the case that just when you think something is going well it comes back to bite you in the backside. I think now it’s just a case of going back to what we know we can do well, the scrum has generally gone well all season and hopefully last Friday was just a little blip on the screen that we can move on from."
Having already beaten Sunday’s opponents when the two teams met in Bath back in October, the Kiwi said: "That game was quite early in the life of this team, if you like, and it gave us quite a lot of belief in terms of our away form and the fact we could match it with any team.
"Bath have moved on a lot since then, they’re a different proposition now and they have the form on their side. We have a bit of confidence from beating them down there, but that doesn’t mean a whole heap when we take the field on Sunday. It’s a new day, a fresh challenge and another closely-fought Guinness Premiership game.
"They’ve got quality players right across the field, a very good set piece and plenty of threat in the backs, so they’re an all-round outfit playing some good stuff at the moment. It’s pretty standard for the Premiership really, there aren’t any bad teams around so it’s just a case of making sure we’re ready and up for the challenge."
With much talk in the media surrounding Hayman’s future plans when his contract expires in June, the man himself revealed that he has not been swayed one way or the other just yet.
"No, there’s no decision on that at the moment," he said.
"We’re just working through the process of sorting that out, and I guess it would be inappropriate of me to say much more than that until I’ve made a decision. I’d like to think that will be some time in the next couple of weeks, and once that happens we’ll let everyone know.
"There’s an option that I’ll still be here playing for Newcastle, and there’s an option that I’ll be elsewhere. The World Cup is a factor, for sure, but there are also other things to consider and nothing has been decided just yet.
"What I won’t allow though is for my decision to be a distraction from anything else, because the most important thing is helping the Falcons to reach the Heineken Cup, to win games for our supporters and to get the club where we want to be. I’m absolutely focused on that, it’s not distracting at all from the rugby and like all the boys I’m just concentrating on getting the win this Sunday against Bath."
Tickets for Sunday’s game are still available by calling 0871 226 60 60, from Kingston Park in person or on matchday itself.