Newcastle Falcons recorded their first victory of the Gallagher Premiership season on Saturday, winning at The Rec for the second season running.
Surging into a 20-3 half-time lead in a performance brimming with power and passion, their joy was tempered only by their failure to secure the four-try bonus point against a Bath side who grew into the game as it wore on.
Newcastle began the afternoon with a spring in their step, Bath old boy Carl Fearns flying into contact and forming part of a pack which earned repeated red-zone penalties.
Collapsed scrums close to the Bath try-line frustrated the Falcons pack – the sense of injustice multiplied when the home side were then awarded a free kick and a relieving penalty as the visitors’ early pressure went unrewarded.
That was at least until the 13th minute, when a George McGuigan steal at the back of a Bath lineout created the platform from which Adam Radwan scored – the England winger stepping two men and powering his way to the right corner from 20 metres out.
Will Haydon-Wood fired just wide with the touchline conversion, but found his target two minutes later with a penalty from a more central position – Louis Schreuder’s perfectly-weighted box kick giving Bath man and ball on their own 22, a position from which an eager Falcons pack forced the referee’s whistle.
Bath missed an opportunity to get themselves off the mark when Orlando Bailey pushed wide a penalty from 35 metres out, the fly-half making amends from in front if the posts on 27 minutes with a second penalty attempt.
Haydon-Wood fired wide as Newcastle attempted a longer-range penalty just after the half-hour, but his side took a ten-point lead following Iwan Stephens’ try in the left corner.
The teenage flyer somehow grounded the ball just inside the flag after the ball was worked to the short-side from a close-range maul – Newcastle earning the field position on the back of strong scrum pressure which forced repeated penalties.
Another such penalty secured the Falcons a 20-3 half-time lead, a line-out on the Bath 22 seeing George McGuigan racing to the try-line from a set move at the back – Haydon-Wood this time adding the conversion.
Newcastle continued their momentum during the early exchanges of the second half, Bath changing both of their props during the break but still enduring a torrid time against the Falcons’ scrum.
The home side were reduced to 14 men when Miles Reid was sent to the sin bin following a string of red-zone penalties against his side, but still managed to gain some momentum with a number of phases in Falcons territory.
Newcastle’s defence managed to hold firm – at least up until the 71st minute, when a ruck near the posts saw the ball spun right for centre Max Ojomoh to score a converted try.
That left the Falcons ten points up going into the closing stages – Dean Richards’ men having enough to hold on for the win, but allowing Bath a bonus point with a last-minute penalty.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Penny, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Ben Stevenson, 12 Pete Lucock, 11 Iwan Stephens, 10 Will Haydon-Wood (Brett Connon, 50), 9 Louis Schreuder; 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 George McGuigan (Jamie Blamire, 71), 3 Richard Palframan (Mark Tampin, 31), 4 Greg Peterson (Marco Fuser, 71), 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Philip van der Walt, 7 Will Welch (captain), 8 Carl Fearns (Gary Graham, 61).
Scorers - Tries: Adam Radwan, Iwan Stephens, George McGuigan. Conversions: Will Haydon-Wood. Penalties: Will Haydon-Wood.
Bath Rugby: 15 Tom de Glanville, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph (Max Clark, 61), 12 Max Ojomoh, 11 Will Muir, 10 Orlando Bailey, 9 Ollie Fox (Max Green, 61); 1 Juan Schoeman (Beno Obano, 40), 2 Tom Dunn (Jacques du Toit, 48), 3 Johannes Jonker (D’Arcy Rae, 40), 4 Mike Williams (Jaco Coetzee, 53), 5 Charlie Ewels (captain), 6 Miles Reid, 7 Sam Underhill (Tom Ellis, 11), 8 Josh Bayliss.
Scorers - Tries: Max Ojomoh. Conversions: Orlando Bailey. Penalties: Orlando Bailey 2.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys. Attendance: 12,569.
de Glanville, Rokoduguni, Joseph, Ojomoh, Muir, Bailey, Fox, Schoeman, Dunn, Jonker, Williams, Ewels, Reid, Underhill, Bayliss
Replacements du Toit, Obano, Rae, Ellis, Coetzee, Green, Butt, Clark
Penny, Radwan, Stevenson, Lucock, Stephens, Haydon-Wood, Schreuder, Brocklebank, McGuigan, Palframan, Peterson, Robinson, van der Walt, Welch, Fearns
Replacements Blamire, Cooper, Tampin, Fuser, Graham, Nordli-Kelemeti, Connon, Wacokecoke
referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
assistant: Dean Richards
assistant: John Meredith
TMO: David Rose