A determined performance in the Aviva Premiership from Bath Rugby this afternoon saw them secure a 23-14 victory over Newcastle Falcons.
It was the visitors who enjoyed the majority of the possession early on, but fly-half Juan Pablo Socino spurned too penalty opportunities in quick succession – the first rebounding off the upright and the second drifting wide.
Instead, a drop-goal from Gavin Henson were the first points of the game, the fly-half setting himself in the pocket following a series of strong scrums and lineouts from the home side.
Newcastle continued to have the better of the pressure however, and a strong drive from the lineout led them to think they'd scored the game's first try. Referee Ian Tempest consulted with the TMO, who ruled that they were held up over the line following some good defence from Bath. The resulting scrum saw the Bath pack power forward, but the ball went loose and into touch, giving Newcastle the lineout. This time there was no deliberation as Mark Wilson touched down over the line from the back of the maul. Socino added the extras and the Falcons led after 35 minutes. 3-7.
The scrum was a powerful weapon for the home side and it created the next scoring opportunity with just a minute until half-time. The pack earned the penalty and Henson sent the ball sailing into touch for a five metre lineout. The ball was secured, the pack drove hard and Stuart Hooper was at the base to dive over the line at the vital moment. Henson added the conversion.
Half-time: Bath Rugby 10 – Newcastle Falcons 7
The late try in the first-half seemed to give Bath the impetus in the second, with the home side coming out firing. A big, physical side, Newcastle weren't easy to breakdown, but after 54 minutes Bath managed just that through the neat footwork of Jonathan Joseph. A superb run along the right touchline from Olly Woodburn set the home side in a good position. The ball was shifted inside and found Joseph in the centre. He shrugged off the three Newcastle defenders around him, snuck through the gap and burst away to cross the line. Henson converted the try, giving Bath a 10 point lead.
A penalty miss each from Henson and replacement Rory Clegg preceded a penalty from the Bath man following the referee showing a yellow card to Socino. 20-7.
Despite being a man down Newcastle kept fighting, and once more had a try turned down by the TMO before being awarded one moments later. Sinoti Sinoti pounced from short range and Clegg added the extras to make for a tense final five minutes for the Recreation Ground crowd.
The scrum proved the decisive factor as the game drew to a close, as it had been throughout the game. A huge shove from the Bath pack was rewarded with the penalty that Henson duly sent straight through the posts, denying the visitors a losing bonus point as the game reached its climax.
Final score: Bath Rugby 23 – Newcastle Falcons 14.