Match summary – Bath Rugby 13-20 Newcastle Falcons
A late second-half surge earned Bath Rugby a losing bonus point against Newcastle Falcons as fans returned to the Rec for the first time in over 500 days.
In a tale similar to that of the Round 1 match at Sale Sharks, the Blue, Black and Whites found themselves behind at the break.
Adam Radwan, Iwan Stephens and George McGuigan all crossed for the Falcons with Orlando Bailey’s penalty Bath’s only reply.
However the second 40 painted a different picture on the scoreboard front. Stuart Hooper’s men rallied and held their opponents whilst scoring 10 points late in the half to secure a point.
Academy centre Max Ojomoh slid in for his first senior try for the club and Bailey slotted a penalty with the last kick of the game to bring Bath within seven.
Bailey was one of three Bath changes for the visit of Newcastle with Ollie Fox coming in for his second Gallagher Premiership start at scrum-half.
Juan Schoeman completed the trio of alterations a week after scoring his first Bath try.
His opposite man, Richard Palframan, was making his Newcastle debut and was one of two fresh faces to their front as Adam Brocklebank packed down at one. Following an 80th-minute penalty in Round 1, Will Haydon-Wood earned a shot at fly-half for the North East outfit.
Bath Rugby: 15 Tom de Glanville, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Max Ojomoh, 11 Will Muir, 10 Orlando Bailey, 9 Ollie Fox; 1 Juan Schoeman, 2 Tom Dunn, 3 Johannes Jonker, 4 Mike Williams, 5 Charlie Ewels ©, 6 Miles Reid, 7 Sam Underhill, 8 Josh Bayliss
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Beno Obano, 18 D’Arcy Rae, 19 Tom Ellis, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Max Green, 22 Will Butt, 23 Max Clark
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Penny, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Ben Stevenson, 12 Pete Lucock, 11 Iwan Stephens, 10 Will Haydon-Wood, 9 Louis Schreuder; 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Richard Palframan, 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Philip van der Walt, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Carl Fearns
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Kyle Cooper, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Gary Graham, 21 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti, 22 Brett Connon, 23 George Wacokecoke
Spirits were high amongst the crowd as they returned to see their team in Blue, Black and White back at the Rec and the players met a loud roar as they ran out to their new entrance song, Can’t hold us by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
Newcastle did just that though in the opening five minutes, frustrating the hosts at scrum with reset after reset slowing the tempo of the match to their liking until the resilience and strength of the home pack resulted referee Craig Maxwell-Keys awarding a penalty and a chance to clear.
The visitors’ physicality and confrontational style thwarted Bath from playing the way they would like and it paid dividends on their part as Radwan jinked in for the opening score.
The one-cap England international, who made over 130 metres last weekend, received the ball in the wide channel and displayed electric pace on his way to his second try of the season.
Haydon-Wood’s conversion fell wide but the fly-half nudged a penalty on 16 minutes to keep the scoreboard ticking over for the away side.
Rain poured and while it soaked those in the East Stand and Thatchers Terrace, it didn’t dampen the effort of the Blue, Black and Whites.
Ojomoh’s bulldozing carry put Falcons on the backfoot and they had to result to slowing the ball illegally, preventing any chance of momentum. Bailey grabbed his tee and was successful with his strike but only after Ollie Fox’s attempt of a quick tap – which saw him a step away from the line – was culled for venturing forward from the wrong position.
The scrum-half's near creativity was matched at the other end as Newcastle stretched their advantage. A crafty line-out to the middle led to Stephens collecting the ball on the blindside and dotting down at full stretch.
In reply, Bath centres Jonathan Joseph and Ojomoh combined beautifully. The former’s cheeky chip over the top of the red-shirted defence bounced kindly into the latter’s hands, though Newcastle scrambled well to deny any clearcut opening.
Dean Richards’ side were rewarded for keeping Bath out with a third score just shy of the half-time whistle. McGuigan was the beneficiary of a neat inside ball and skated over the whitewash to give the Falcons a 17-point lead at the interval.
For Bath it was ‘Right here, right now’ – not just in terms of the entrance song for the second half but if they were to bounce back.
They began to attack more seamlessly. Ojomoh’s eyes constantly lit up for a period as he took an outside arc on several occasions, finding space to release Tom de Glanville on a jaunt forward with Semesa Rokoduguni – on his 175th club outing – in support.
The hosts were creating some brilliant opportunities, building an exciting attacking picture, but the last piece of the puzzle kept eluding them each time.
On 53 minutes, Bath went down to 14 men as Miles Reid was shown a yellow card for a succession red-zone penalties. Newcastle failed to capitalise, and the period saw Bath gain momentum.
Their expansive style translated into points as Pol Roger Performance of the Match Ojomoh earned his first senior try for the club. The forwards ramped up the pressure and brought themselves to within in a metre and when they sucked Newcastle in the right amount, Max Green utilised the wide advantage and send Ojomoh crashing over in front of the watchful eye of dad Steve and mum Lisa.
Bailey’s conversion made the score 20-10 in Newcastle’s favour and that’s the way it looked it would stay, but Bath had resolute intent and worked hard to ensure that wasn’t the case.
In the dying moments, Josh Bayliss put aside the pain of a shoulder knock sustained moments before to ride a number of tackles on the wing and almost reach the line. A couple of phases later, Newcastle hands on the deck prevented any chance of a try being score. Pinged for their actions, up stepped Bailey who dissected the posts to take the score to within seven and earn a valuable losing bonus point.
POL ROGER PERFORmance of the match
25 September 2021
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Half Time score: 3-20
- Tries: Ojomoh (69)
- Conversions: Bailey (71)
- Penalties: Bailey (27, 85)
- Tries: Radwan (11), Stephens (33), McGuigan (39)
- Conversions: Haydon-Wood (40)
- Penalties: Haydon-Wood (15)