Falcons take bonus point from nail-biter in Bath
Newcastle Falcons had to make do with a losing bonus point from Friday night’s keenly-contested Aviva Premiership clash at The Rec.
Newcastle trailed 12-7 at the break despite dominating much of the opening half.
The visitors’ attacking intentions were laid clear when Giamba Venditti and Mike Delany ran the ball out from their own 22 within the first three minutes, a dominant scrum delivering the penalty which ultimately resulted in their first try.
Kicking to the corner and twice seeing line-out drives thwarted at close quarters, a ruck near the line provided the platform for prolific prop Rob Vickers to extend his scoring streak. The loose-head burrowed over in his now-customary fashion, Delany’s conversion from wide out on the left extending the Falcons’ lead to seven.
Breaks from Juan Pablo Socino, Simon Hammersley and Mouritz Botha helped lay the platform as Newcastle spent prolonged periods in the home half, Delany firing wide with a penalty on 22 minutes before the television match official denied them a try from another attacking line-out.
This time it was a cheeky move at the front which almost delivered a score for George McGuigan, the hooker’s hand just crossing the touchline a fraction of a second before he grounded the ball under pressure.
But it was Bath who ended the half on a high, their first try an unusual one as Semesa Rokoduguni volleyed a cross-field kick behind the advancing defence. Tom Homer converted, Rokoduguni adding a second on 39 minutes when he finished a two-on-one down the right for a five-point interval lead.
The Falcons regained their stride for the start of the second half with a succession of line-outs in Bath’s 22, Mark Wilson and Taione Vea among the many eager carriers earning the hard yards through the middle.
And it was that forward graft which delivered the first points of the half in their favour when scrum pressure provided Delany with a penalty from the right. The Kiwi duly slotted it, a keen set-piece unit stealing Bath’s line-out but finding themselves five down when Homer slotted a penalty from in front.
Delany’s second penalty chipped three points back as Newcastle responded, their cause aided by the sin-binning of home flanker Francois Louw.
The momentum continued when Delany’s long-range penalty put them into a one-point lead, the fly-quickly adding a third when Henry Thomas joined Louw in the sin bin.
Homer hit back with a simple penalty in front as the tension mounted going into the final 10 minutes, Scott Lawson’s sin-binning seeing a third penalty for the full-back as the home side took a decisive two-point lead.
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: S Hammersley, G Venditti, C Harris, JP Socino (B Agulla, 70), M Watson, M Delany, S Takulua (M Young, 55); R Vickers (A Rogers, 65), G McGuigan (S Lawson, 65), T Vea (K Hatakeyama, 65), M Botha (S Robinson, 58), C Green, M Wilson, W Welch (captain), N Latu (A Hogg, 70).
Sin bin: S Lawson (73)
Falcons scorers - Tries: R Vickers. Conversions: M Delany. Penalties: M Delany 4.
BATH RUGBY: T Homer, S Rokoduguni (H Agulla, 58), M Clark, M Banahan, J Williams, O Devoto, C Cook; M Lahiff (N Catt, 59), R Webber, D Wilson (H Thomas, 48), S Hooper (captain, C Ewels, 64)), D Day, M Garvey, F Louw, L Houston.
Sin-bin: F Louw (59), H Thomas (65).
Bath scorers - Tries: S Rokoduguni 2. Conversions: T Homer. Penalties: T Homer 3.
Referee: T Wigglesworth.
Homer, Rokoduguni, Clark, Banahan, Williams, Devoto, Cook, Lahiff, Webber, Wilson, Hooper, Day, Garvey, Louw, Houston
Replacements Dunn, Catt, Thomas, Ewels, Mercer, Evans, Homer, Agulla
Hammersley, Venditti, Harris, Socino, Watson, Delany, Takulua, Vickers, McGuigan, Vea, Botha, Green, Wilson, Welch, Latu
Replacements Lawson, Rogers, Hatakeyama, Robinson, Hogg, Young, Willis, Agulla
referee: Tim Wigglesworth
assistant: Gareth Copsey
assistant: Andrew Small
TMO: Stuart Terheege