A second-half brace from Semesa Rokoduguni wasn’t enough to prevent Newcastle Falcons clinching a 24-22 Aviva Premiership victory over Bath Rugby in the dying minutes at Kingston Park this evening.
The home side took the lead early in the contest, Vereniki Goneva latching on to quick ball and breaking through the defensive line to score under the posts. Joel Hodgson added the conversion to what was to be the only try of the first-half to put Newcastle 7-0 up after just three minutes.
It was a messy half from both sides – there were spilt balls and knock-ons a-plenty – and neither side really gained overall control. Instead the game ebbed and flowed, with first Newcastle and then the visitors trying to suss their opponents out and find a weakness to exploit.
Twice George Ford had penalty attempts drift agonisingly wide of the uprights, before he got Bath’s first points on the board from the tee on the stroke of half-time.
Half-time: Newcastle Falcons 7 – Bath Rugby 3
Bath had gained a slight momentum advantage as the first-half was drawing to a close, and it continued when the players returned to the pitch after the break.
Matt Garvey secured the lineout, and the forwards made in-roads in the home defence close to the try-line. First Max Lahiff and then Nathan Catt were inches from crossing the whitewash, before Darren Allinson spun the ball out wide and found Ford in space. The fly-half had the simple task of cantering over the line and touching down for the score. He converted his own try, giving Bath the lead for the first time in the game. 7-10.
Rokoduguni scored his first try of the night on the 52nd minute to extend the visitors’ lead. The winger latched on to an electric break from Anthony Watson, and stormed his way down the touchline under close attention from Goneva. The Newcastle wing thought he had done enough to prevent the try, but a superb finish by Rokoduguni was confirmed by the Television Match Official, and the score was awarded. Ford added an excellent touchline conversion. 7-17.
Newcastle weren’t going to let Bath have things all their own way though, and they fought back hard. Only a last-ditch tackle from Watson in the corner prevented Evan Olmstead from scoring on the 60th minute, and instead play was brought back for a penalty to the home side. Hodgson had the simple task of slotting the three points from in front of the posts. 10-17.
Rokoduguni’s second of the evening took him ahead of Iain Balshaw in Bath’s all-time scorer’s record, second only behind Matt Banahan. Aled Brew had taken the high ball on the opposite wing very well, and it was quickly passed through the hands. Watson was again the provider of the final pass, and it was a simple run-in for the winger. 10-22.
The resurgent Newcastle found their stride again with ten minutes to play, and after holes were punched by Goneva and Will Witty, Mark Wilson was bundled over the line from inches out to score. Hodgson converted, reducing the lead to five.
It was a nail-biting end to a game that had sparked into life in the second-half, and with a try from Ben Harris – again from a short-range pick and go - in the 77th minute, the scores were tied. Hodgson calmly slotted the conversion, and with it sealed the win for the home side.
Final score: Newcastle Falcons 24 – Bath Rugby 22