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.
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
10 April 2015
Referee: JP Doyle
Half Time score: 13-19
- Tries: Sinoti (31)
- Conversions: Clegg (32)
- Penalties: Clegg (5, 24, 47), Catterick (68)
- Tries: Devoto (9), Rokoduguni (16), Watson (39), Banahan (42)
- Conversions: Ford (10, 40, 43)
- Penalties: Ford (72)