A tense and breathtaking affair at Kingston Park saw Bath Rugby claim a 19-29 win against Newcastle Falcons, the visitors scoring four tries in the process.Discover more!
A scrum to Falcons on Bath's 10m in the fourth minute turned to a penalty to the home side, which fly-half Rory Clegg struck well. 3-0.
Bath gained some revenge for that misdemeanour before 10 minutes were gone, setting a scrum in front of the Falcons posts that enabled a delayed pass from George Ford to put Ollie Devoto under them. The Bath fly-half added the extras to make it 3-7.
Nearing the end of the first quarter, with Bath playing deep in the Falcons half, Jonathan Joseph was able to outfox the drift defence with a bullet pass to Semesa Rokoduguni; the winger showing almost equal speed to touch down in the corner for the second try. Ford's conversion attempt dragged wide of the left post. 3-12.
Clegg halved the home side's deficit soon after with a penalty outside Bath's 22 after a late Bath tackle. 6-12. Bath were then - perhaps unfairly - denied a follow-up try from Rokoduguni when what appeared on replays to be a sublime offload from Sam Burgess earlier in the build-up was judged to have been a knock-on.
Phenomenal pace and evasion from Falcons wing Sinoti Sinoti, along with Clegg's conversion of the Samoan winger's try, allowed Falcons to regain the lead before the half hour.
A scrum penalty to Bath (despite being under the cosh for most of the first half) with a minute to play in the first half set Bath up for a lineout a metre or so outside the home 22. Houston caught the throw at the back of the lineout, Stringer delivered the ball with aplomb to Ford, the fly-half finding Devoto, who made a perfectly-timed pass to Anthony Watson, whose divine line saw him through untouched for Bath's third try.
Ford's conversion was the last act of the first half as Bath took a deserved 13-19 lead into the changing rooms.
Half time: Newcastle Falcons 13-19 Bath Rugby
Minutes into the second half, and after further slick work by Watson from deep and heavy duty carrying from Burgess, Matt Banahan scored his 40th Premiership try - and Bath's bonus point try - with a dashing effort from the big wing. The conversion from Ford made it 13-26.
Clegg added three points to the eight he had already scored with a penalty kick in front of the posts, meaning there were now 13 points separating the two sides. 16-29.
Bath were made to defend desperately approaching the final 15 minutes, and managed to do so with gusto as twice Falcons were unable to send their close-quarter maul over the try line. The visitors did, however, see replacement blindside Fearns sent to the sin bin for a maul indiscrection.
Even with a man down, Bath's defence was such that when Falcons were awarded a penalty from in front of the visitors' post, Newcastle decided to go for the kick instead - replacement fly-half Tom Catterick doing the honours. 19-26.
The visitors continued their attacking approach despite their depleted ranks, and were running the ball to great effect inside Falcons' 22, when Ford was gifted a penalty that extended Bath's lead to 10 points with seven minutes to go. 19-29.
And so the score remained, despite a last-gasp attempt by the ever-threatening Sinoti to drag his team back into the match. Bath also had the opportunity to take a bigger chunk of the lead, but were unable to do so as the referee blew his whistle to end proceedings.
Full time: Newcastle Falcons 19-29 Bath Rugby
Francois Louw will captain Bath Rugby from the openside flank tomorrow evening as they travel to Kingston Park in the Aviva Premiership, kick-off 19.45.Discover more!
Louw leads a side that features eight changes to that which encountered Leinster in the European Rugby Champions Cup last weekend.
In the backs, Semesa Rokoduguni returns to the wing opposite Matt Banahan, and Ollie Devoto partners Jonathan Joseph in the midfield. Anthony Watson continues at fullback, whilst George Ford is joined in the half-backs by Peter Stringer.
Nick Auterac and Max Lahiff scrum down either side of Ross Batty at hooker as Matt Garvey combines with Dominic Day in the second row. Sam Burgess and Leroy Houston complete the back row alongside Louw.
Stuart Hooper and Kyle Eastmond both miss the trip with slight knocks.
Bath Rugby team to face Newcastle Falcons
15. Anthony Watson
14. Semesa Rokoduguni
13. Jonathan Joseph
12. Ollie Devoto
11. Matt Banahan
10. George Ford
9. Peter Stringer
1. Nick Auterac
2. Ross Batty
3. Max Lahiff
4. Matt Garvey
5. Dominic Day
6. Sam Burgess
7. Francois Louw ( c )
8. Leroy Houston
16. Rob Webber
17. Paul James
18. Kane Palma-Newport
19. Dave Attwood
20. Carl Fearns
21. Alafoti Faosiliva
22. Micky Young
23. Tom Homer
As we waited for our flight home at Dublin airport this evening, I thought at length about the Club's European journey this season.Discover more!
Today we lost out to a very good side and we are rightly disappointed - individually and as a team. We understand what it takes to get to this stage of such a competitive tournament and are desperate to continue to improve.
One thing that is apparent throughout this season is the dedication of our supporters. Having spoken to many of you after the game and at the airport, I can assure you that every player appreciates and values your commitment to us.
This season is far from over, and we're thoroughly looking forward to challenge ahead - one that is made that much easier with you behind us all the way.
- Stuart Hooper, Club Captain
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