Bath director of rugby Stuart Hooper branded his team’s performance “unacceptable” after they opened their new Gallagher Premiership campaign with a 19-12 defeat at home to promoted Newcastle.

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Gary Graham scored two tries against a Bath team missing six players on Autumn Nations Cup duty, but Hooper refused to blame the defeat on either those absences or a “hangover” from their play-off semi-final defeat to Exeter six weeks ago.

Hooper said: “To lose in the manner we did was massively disappointing. From a performance point of view it was unacceptable.

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“A lot of the actions out there was not what allows us to be the team we want to be. I’m disappointed of course, as are the players.

“I don’t think it’s a hangover. It’s the start of a new season, the guys have had a rest and then two weeks’ prep. I just think it was a poor performance on the day.

“We want to play a balanced game and part of that is understanding when it’s right to move the ball and when it’s right not to. Equally there were other parts of our game that weren’t right, opportunities to score close in from a maul, which we didn’t, scrums we could have won, defensive moments when we were passing.

“This game remains a big disappointment until you move on, start working and get better from it.

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“This has happened to us and it’s important that we recognise that. As staff and players, we cannot accept what happened out there today. We’ll head down to Exeter next weekend ready to go. We have to be better than we were today.”

Bath had led through Joe Cokanasiga’s early try and Josh Matavesi levelled after number eight Graham’s first-half double – but wing Ben Stevenson’s try, and Brett Connon’s second conversion of a mixed kicking day, secured victory for Newcastle.

Director of rugby Dean Richards was delighted that his team’s clinical edge “caught Bath cold”.

He said: “The one thing you can’t be, if you’re not a team of superstars, is disorganised. For us it’s important that we have that clinical edge, that we are relentless in what we do.

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“As we said beforehand, it doesn’t matter if they score first or get two tries early on, we’ve just got to keep going and stick to our processes.

“After a break of eight and a half months, in some respects we should be fresh but the battle hardness is not there yet, however well we played against Ealing in our warm-up match. You want to get that Premiership hardness in you.

“We were at a disadvantage but we knew that and if we were organised we’d give ourselves an opportunity. Actually we left three or four tries out there and 14 points off the boot. Bath are a good side and we caught them cold.”

Richards hopes a young side have now set the tone and said: “There’s no point in doing this today and not backing it up against Sale at Kingston Park next weekend. We’ve got to turn in a performance knowing what we can do.

“The key today was that the younger, inexperienced boys turned up for us. A number of them were making their Premiership debuts and they did a really good job.”

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