Newcastle Falcons’ valiant display against high-flying Bath Rugby was not enough as they succumbed to a 24-6 defeat at The Rec in the Aviva Premiership on Saturday afternoon.
The last encounter between the two sides was on the opening weekend of the Aviva Premiership season when former Falcons boss Gary Gold brought his charges to a sodden Kingston Park. How times change in the world of rugby. Now under the guidance of Mike Ford, who was also part of the Kingston Park survival mission when Gold was at the helm in the North East back in 2012, the West Countrymen welcomed a Newcastle side eager to build on last week’s 29-0 victory at home to Newport Gwent Dragons in the LV= Cup. In not too dissimilar conditions to the opening contest of the campaign, the Falcons were drawing 3-3 at the break, but were ultimately outdone by a spritely Bath second half performance.
George Ford had the chance to put his side in front as early as the first minute when Newcastle were penalised at the lineout 22 metres from their own line. However, in the swirling wind the normally reliable Ford could only shank his effort wide. Ford had the opportunity to make amends in the 13th minute with his second penalty attempt of the afternoon, this time from 35-metres out and in a more central position, but the England international sliced his kick wide of the upright and the Falcons were holding on at 0-0. Not deterred by his early misses, it was third time lucky for the Bath No.10 as he broke his duck moments later from directly in front of the posts after referee Tim Wigglesworth awarded the hosts a penalty at the scrum.
Newcastle’s attacking prowess was in short supply throughout the first period and their frustration showed when a late challenge from skipper Will Welch on Ford resulted in a penalty from where the ball had landed. Electing to go for the points with his fourth goal-kick of the day, Ford again skewed his penalty wide, but Mike Ford’s men still had the upper hand at 3-0.
The Bath fly-half was made to pay for his uncharacteristic kicking display on the half hour mark when Phil Godman judged the elements to perfection to kick a long-range penalty to level the scores.
Bath’s response was emphatic as expected, but the Falcons defended superbly to keep their opponents at bay as the likes of Matt Banahan and Francois Low went for the jugular. Their task was made even more difficult when Oliver Tomaszczyk was yellow-carded for persistent infringement and the northeasterners had to see out the remainder of the first period a man light in the front-row. Scrambling in defence, the Falcons were putting on a defensive clinic of the highest standard and their resistance got them into the interval on level terms. Try-saving interventions from Adam Powell and Noah Cato rescued the visitors as half-time approached. Despite struggling to gather any momentum in attack, the Falcons did show signs that they could make the most of the opportunities presented to them and had reason for optimism going into the second half.
Godman made it two out of two with the boot within a minute of the restart to put Newcastle 6-3 ahead to the delight of the travelling army of Falcons fans. Bath regained the ascendancy on 48 minutes though, when Ford’s dummy and go on the shortside set-up Horacio Agulla to race under the posts. Ford converted to put his side 10-6 in front.
Five minutes later Bath doubled their tally of tries courtesy of Leroy Houston, who crashed over from close-range following a period of sustained pressure on the Falcons’ line. Ford added the extras to make it 17-6. Dean Richards’ side immediately went on the march up-field and created a clear-cut chance when Powell broke down the near side to feed Gonzalo Tiesi on the overlap, but the Argentinian international who was having a solid outing, was bundled into touch.
With just over ten minutes left on the clock the Falcons were put under immense pressure with a series of penalties awarded against them in the scrum. Going for touch on successive occasions the Falcons defended bravely to see out an intense period of pressure to their credit. However, the pressure took its toll and in the final minute Low bulldozed his way over the line. Ford’s simple conversion secured the spoils for Bath.
Abendanon, Watson, Devoto, Eastmond, Banahan, Ford, Stringer, Catt, Webber, Orlandi, Hooper, Day, Garvey, Louw, Houston
Replacements Batty, Perenise, Palma-Newport, Caldwell, Fa'osiliva, Young, Henson, Agulla
Tait, Cato, Tiesi, Helleur, Sinoti, Godman, Fury, Vickers, Thompson, Tomaszczyk, MacLeod, McKenzie, Welch, Saull, Wilson
Replacements McGuigan, Montanella, Brookes, Tomes, Hogg, Pilgrim, Clegg, Powell
referee: Tim Wigglesworth