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Fragile Bath let Falcons back in

Bath Rugby supporters again filled out the Recreation Ground to its new 11,700 capacity but streamed away still waiting for their first win of the season after this nervy defeat at the hands of the Falcons.

As against Stade Francais a week earlier, there were flashes of inspiration - Michael Claassens' try just after the interval was high-quality rugby - but there were still moments of fragility which let Newcastle back into the game.

And it was a burst of 15 points from the 59th to the 60th minutes which swept the visitors to a bonus point victory.
While former Bath lock James Hudson claimed one of the four tries it was a far from enjoyable experience for Bath tighthead Davey Wilson, coming off the bench to face his old teammates for the first time since his move in the summer.

Although he impressed with a couple of bullocking runs late in the game it was too late to influence matters.

After a fourth Premiership defeat, Claassens and the coaching team urged the players to "relax and believe in themselves".

Claassens said: "Perhaps we were guilty of mistakes and forcing things but they scored two tries against the run of play so it could have been a different game. In the first half we had two or three opportunities to score ourselves but didn't take them."

While skills coach Brad Davis pointed to two missed tackles costing two tries, head coach Steve Meehan insisted that the squad was training very well. "The effort is terrific," he said. "But after this run of results we have to rely on the strong characters in this team, the belief that there really is a lot of talent in the side and get back to playing the type of rugby that we know we are capable of.

"They guys will spend a lot of time looking at themselves, their own performances and thinking about how they can do things better, individually and collectively.

"We've been through moments like this in the past and if they continue to work hard for each other then we will come out of it. We've just got to relax and do the basics."

Neither side emerged with much credit from the first quarter which was a shapeless affair punctuated by knock-ons and other errors.

Falcons fly-half Jimmy Gopperth impressed with his tactical kicking but missed an opportunity to open the scoring from 40 metres after 12 minutes.

The spell was eventually broken when Nick Abendanon ran back a downfield kick and found support from Julian Salvi, Jonny Faamatuainu and David Flatman. The resulting ruck led to a penalty kicked by Nicky Little on 24 minutes and the momentum continued with a second score within three minutes. Bath won a turnover on the 22 and Pieter Dixon fired a pass straight to Matt Carraro, who finished expertly in the right corner.

Not for the first time, Bath allowed their opponents to respond almost straight away as Little failed to hold Charlie Amesbury who sped away to the corner. Gopperth converted from touch but Bath had a precious 8-7lead going in at the break.

Almost before everyone had taken their seats, Abendanon again collected an ill-directed kick and broke through the Falcons cover, with the ever-present Salvi and Dixon in support. Claassens appeared on the inside to finish off a 70-metre move but the try went unconverted.

Unfortunately, concentration was lacking again and Hudson scored on 46 minutes when Rob Vickerman wriggled out of a tackle to breach the Bath defence. Like Little, Gopperth could not convert the second row's try.

If there was a turning point, it came in the 52nd minute when Shontayne Hape snaffled up a dropped pass and surged out of defence with Jack Cuthbert on his right shoulder. For a moment it looked as if Salvi would finish things off but the chance went begging.

And there was a sinking feeling seven minutes later when Dixon powered though a gap inside the Newcastle 22 and fed the ball inside - but only to scrum-half Micky Young who was left with a clear run to the Bath line 80 metres upfield. This time Gopperth did convert and Bath were behind for the first time in the game.

Ryan Davis, one of a number of fresh legs off the bench, dropped a goal in reply but hands in the ruck at the other end presented Gopperth with a penalty which restored Newcastle's six point lead.

The fly-half then created the bonus point try for fullback Amesbury by slipping a delicate grubber through with the outside of his right boot and he could still afford to miss the conversion and a last minute penalty.

"We've got an eight hour coach journey home - it will be a little bit sweeter tonight," said Falcons Director of Rugby Steve Bates.

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