Match summary – Newcastle Falcons 25-30 Bath Rugby
Bath Rugby recorded their first bonus-point win of the campaign in a real arm wrestle with Newcastle Falcons in Round 18 of the Gallagher Premiership.
After five months out, Joe Cokanasiga scored two tries on his return with Ewan Richards and Lewis Boyce also on the trysheet.
Danny Cipriani kicked 10 points for the Blue, Black and White who head into a West Country derby with Bristol Bears full of confidence.
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Miles Reid captained Bath for the first time on his return from injury, linking up with fellow homegrown teammate Josh Bayliss in the back row.
Several players were back in the 23 after stints on the sidelines with Joe Cokanasiga making his maiden appearance in 2021/22.
Falcons added Gary Graham, Mark Tampin and Adam Radwan to their XV with Trevor Davison showing his versatility by switching from tighthead to loosehead prop.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Tom Penny (cc), 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Matias Orlando, 11 Adam Radwan, 10 Will Haydon-Wood, 9 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti; 1 Trevor Davison, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Mark Tampin, 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Josh Basham, 7 Connor Collett (cc), 8 Gary Graham
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Rob Farrar, 20 Will Montgomery, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Pete Lucock
Bath Rugby: 15 Tom de Glanville, 14 Will Butt, 13 Max Clark, 12 Max Ojomoh, 11 Will Muir, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Ben Spencer; 1 Valeriy Morozov, 2 Jacques du Toit, 3 D’Arcy Rae, 4 Mike Williams, 5 Ewan Richards, 6 Josh Bayliss, 7 Miles Reid ©, 8 Nathan Hughes
Replacements: 16 Tom Doughty, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Richard de Carpentier, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Jonathan Joseph, 23 Joe Cokanasiga
Storms Eunice and Franklin had passed and evidence of a midweek snowfall were nowhere to be seen at Kingston Park as a calm wind allowed both sides to experiment with a range of passes in the opening exchanges.
Mike Williams’ huge hit thwarted Falcons in their tracks while the hosts won the battle at the breakdown to win a penalty not before Guisborough RFC, otherwise known as Will Muir’s fan club, had made their voices heard.
But it was the home crowd who were first to cheer for a score. A catch and drive set the platform for George McGuigan to flop over the whitewash.
Bath grew into an attacking rhythm from the restart, building the phases through the muscle of Reid, Bayliss and Williams. The backs had their opportunities too; Tom de Glanville racked up the metres and squared up to execute a two-on-one with wing Will Butt who bounced over the tackle of Mike Brown.
Nathan Hughes then bulldozed through a hole to present Cipriani with a penalty shot which he clipped over shortly ahead of a successful Will Haydon-Wood attempt.
The game started to open up and captain Reid took advantage of broken field to carry hard at the right flank. His offload to Muir almost led to a free run for Butt into the corner but a last-ditch tackle prevented a first senior score for the Academy graduate.
On the other wing, there was such an achievement for young lock Richards. The visitors moved the ball quickly from coast-to-coast and the rampaging England Under-20 international finished powerfully.
The scoreboard was level until just after the half-hour mark with Newcastle crossing for a second time. A succession of picks from the ruck-base edged the Falcons to within a yard and co-captain Connor Collett to barge over.
Cipriani pulled back three points at the end of the first period to bring Bath back to within seven.
The fly-half was instrumental in Bath’s first attack of the second period. His beautifully flat pass gave de Glanville space to manoeuvre and find Butt on a flying sprint.
Then Hughes threatened, picking one-handed from the base of a ruck, striding on towards the line but he couldn’t quite connect with Ben Spencer.
The Blue, Black and White’s efforts soon paid off and it was a returning member of the front row who made an immediate impact. Boyce muscled his way across the line within a minute of coming on as a replacement.
A sensational lofted pass from Ojomoh created Bath’s next chance and Max Clark’s wonderful saw him dance past a couple of men like a seasoned wing.
But on top they may have been, Bath fell behind again on 62 minutes. Moments prior, Hughes was sin binned for a high collision and Newcastle reverted to their power game at the line-out with their man advantage. In-field they drove and second row Greg Peterson grabbed the try.
Then a moment of real positive. Back in the 23 and making his first appearance in 2021/22, Cokanasiga hurtled into the corner to make it a two-point game.
With his fan club changing ends, Muir hunted down Haydon-Wood right in front of supporters from his boyhood club and the result was a Bath scrum.
Pressure remained a constant on the home XV and several times referee Adam Leal had his arm outstretched towards the determined away men in white. On the final occurrence came the winner.
The ball was quickly spun to the right and de Glanville’s bouncing ball found Cokanasiga who made his way in for his second and the winner.
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26 February 2022
Referee: Adam Leal
Half Time score: 18-11
- Tries: McGuigan (4), Collett (28), Peterson (60)
- Conversions: Haydon-Wood (29, 62)
- Penalties: Haydon-Wood (16, 38)
- Tries: Richards (21), Boyce (50), Cokanasiga (64, 76)
- Conversions: Cipriani (51, 77)
- Penalties: Cipriani (12, 40)