Newcastle Falcons tasted defeat for the first time in nine games on Saturday, falling to an Anglo-Welsh Cup loss at Bath.
On a grey, drizzly day the teams were still sat on 0-0 at half-time despite plenty of effort and industry from both sets of players in difficult conditions.
The Falcons had enjoyed the better of the early territory and possession, earning three successive penalties in the home 22 but failing to convert despite a 10-minute spell of pressure.
Simon Uzokwe and Juan Pablo Socino were among the many willing runners as the Falcons looked to keep the ball alive despite the heavy underfoot conditions, Glen Young rising high in the line-out as the visitors demonstrated a solid set-piece on their own ball and a disruptive one on Bath’s.
The driving rain was making handling tricky as both sides put the ball to boot, deciding on pragmatic rugby as they passed the quarter mark without score.
Even when Bath earned a penalty in prime position and kicked for the corner Newcastle’s supremely patient and organised defence marched them 30 metres back downfield, eventually forcing a knock-on as the phase play fizzled out.
Newcastle’s own attempt at an offensive line-out in the corner was thwarted in a different fashion when Ally Hogg was penalised for double movement in the act of grounding the ball from a maul down the left, the score-less start continuing all the way until half time.
Bath began the second period intent on playing more of a kicking game, trying to pin the Falcons inside their own half with an aerial barrage, and the deadlock was finally broken on 51 minutes when a five-metre scrum and subsequent period of pick-and-go saw No 8 Paul Grant powering over from close range.
Burns converted, Newcastle registering their first points quickly after when a high tackle 35 metres out allowed Hodgson to slot the penalty from in front.
The visiting fly-half was forced onto the defensive around the hour mark with a try-saving tackle near his own try-line, but there was no stopping Bath on 64 minutes when a breath-less period of ball-in-play from both teams ended with Nathan Charles collecting an inside offload to score down the left.
Burns converted to give the home team a 14-3 lead, Craig Willis making an instant impact for Newcastle on 66 minutes when he collected an inside pass from Adam Radwan to score an unconverted try down the left.
That narrowed the deficit to six points going into the closing stages, Newcastle finding themselves pulled back for a forward pass when Ally Hogg broke clear around half-way.
Any hopes of a comeback were snuffed out with three minutes to go when replacement Jack Wilson grounded Bath’s third try from a cross-kick to the right corner, Burns adding the late extras.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Belisario Agulla (Tom Penny, 73), 13 Dominic Waldouck, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Adam Radwan, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Sam Stuart; 1 Sam Lockwood (Adam Brocklebank, 54), 2 Santiago Socino (Ben Sowrey, 54), 3 Trevor Davison (Jack Payne, 54), 4 Glen Young, 5 Andrew Davidson (Callum Hunter-Hill, 54), 6 Ally Hogg, 7 Simon Uzokwe (Callum Chick, 65), 8 Ryan Burrows (captain)
Falcons scorers – Tries: Craig Willis. Penalties: Joel Hodgson.
Bath Rugby: 15 Darren Atkins, 14 Jeff Williams (Jack Wilson, 50), 13 James Wilson, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Darren Allinson (Max Green, 59); 1 Nick Auterac, 2 Michael van Vuuren (Nathan Charles, 54), 3 Shaun Knight (Sam Nixon, 40), 4 Levi Douglas (Will Britton, 71), 5 Luke Charteris (captain), 6 James Phillips (Miles Reid, 58), 7 Josh Bayliss, 8 Paul Grant.
Bath scorers - Tries: Paul Grant, Nathan Charles, Jack Wilson. Conversions: Freddie Burns 3.
Referee: Mike English. Attendance: 13,627.