Two excellent tries from Semesa Rokoduguni and an exhaustive defensive effort helped Bath Rugby to a 21-19 victory at the Rec tonight, seeing off the advances of the battling Newcastle Falcons.
Falcons appeared to have the upper hand for most of the first half, their loosehead Rob Vickers barging over for a try in the 13th minute after fly-half Mike Delany had kicked a penalty to the corner. Delany converted Vickers' score for a seven-point lead.
Approaching the half hour, lock Dom Day stole a Falcons lineout and Bath went wide, taking play into the visitors' half. From there they were awarded a penalty at the breakdwon. At the resulting home lineout, Bath fly-half Ollie Devoto put in a crossfield kick that Semesa Rokoduguni - showing all the skill of Zlatan Ibrahimovic - controlled the ball with his foot, then gathered it to score.
Bath fullback Tom Homer converted Rokoduguni's remarkable try to level the scores. 7-7.
Mere minutes later, the influential Francois Louw ran confidently into the wide channel, drew the defender and passed to Rokoduguni. Showing a true nose for the line, Rokoduguni turned on the after-burners, his pace enabling him to evade the two Falcons defenders and score his second try of the night. The conversion from out on the right was missed.
Half-time: Bath Rugby 12-7 Newcastle Falcons
Delany reduced the deficit with a 46th minute penalty as Bath were pinged at the scrum. 12-10.
Shortly after, a superb passage of attack started by a brilliant Matt Banahan pass to the indefatigable Leroy Houston put Bath in a position where they were awarded a kickable penalty. And so it proved for Homer, who made it 15-10.
Falcons struck back promptly as Bath were penalised for not rolling away, and Delany made it 15-13.
As the clock showed 60 minutes, Louw was sent to sin bin and, although his absence didn't immediately result in three points for Falcons, Delany kicked a penalty a minute or so later that gave the visitors a 15-16 lead.
Tighthead Henry Thomas joined Louw in the since bin in the 65th minute, and Delany extended Falcons' lead by four points. 15-19.
With just over ten minutes remaining, Bath were back within a single point of Falcons after Homer knocked over a penalty which was doubly buoyant for Bath since Louw returned to the field from his sin binning. 18-19.
It was then time for Falcons to go down to 14 men as replacement hooker Scott Lawson was shown yellow. Homer's penalty was from out wide on the right, but he nailed it effortlessly to give Bath the lead with seven minutes to go.
Bath's grit and determination to hold onto the win in the final minutes was typified by the efforts of Chris Cook and Max Clark, who respectively charged down successive drop goal attempts from the ever-dangerous Delany.
Delany made took one last go at three points, but watched as his kick fell short of the crossbar, which was the final act of the match.
Full-time: Bath Rugby 21-19 Newcastle Falcons