Newcastle Falcons left The Rec empty-handed on Saturday despite showing plenty of energy and enthusiasm upon their return to Gallagher Premiership action.
The Falcons started in promising fashion, winning back their own kick-off and enjoying a period of pressure which went unrewarded on the scoreboard when they kicked a penalty to the corner and lost the resulting line-out.
Bath had more success in turning territory into points when Rhys Priestland chipped over a penalty from in front of the posts on eight minutes, but Toby Flood levelled proceedings after with a penalty from 25 metres out after flowing phase play from Pedro Bettencourt and Andrew Davidson forced a panicked home defence to stray offside.
The home side found themselves held up over the line when a 20-phase attack saw repeated forward carried chopped low in the Newcastle 22, but the resulting five-metre scrum brought the first try of the game when Semesa Rokoduguni exploited numbers out wide for an unconverted score in the right corner.
Flood’s second penalty reduced Bath’s lead to two when the fly-half slotted from 15 metres out following an offside infringement, but the West Country side responded just after the half-hour when England wing Joe Cokanasiga scored in the left corner from a Jonathan Joseph grubber in behind the defensive line.
Priestland again fired wide with the conversion, but found his range with the last kick of the half in converting Will Chudley’s try, the former Falcons scrum-half sniping from the base of a well-defended maul after Bath had kicked a penalty to the left corner.
That left them 20-6 up at the break, Newcastle showing plenty of eagerness in the early exchanges of the second half as Sam Lockwood carried hard and Gary Graham helped win a penalty at ruck time on his own 22.
The momentum continued and helped deliver a try for the Falcons on 50 minutes, the visitors kicking a penalty to the left corner and seeing No 8 Nagusa scoring from the base of a driving maul, Flood adding the extras.
The visitors had the taste for some forward pressure and attempted to turn the screw with another three close-range line-outs, Bath’s defence holding form on all three occasions to leave Dean Richards’ men down by seven going into the closing quarter.
A second Priestland penalty, this time from the right after a high tackle , extended Bath’s advantage to double figures, and any hopes of Newcastle putting Premiership points on the board disappeared on 73 minutes when Francois Louw grabbed the bonus-point try for Bath from a close-range pick and go.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Pedro Bettencourt, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Michael Young (Sonatane Takulua, 65); 1 Sam Lockwood (Adam Brocklebank, 60), 2 Kyle Cooper (Santiago Socino, 69), 3 David Wilson (Jack Payne, 69), 4 Calum Green, 5 Andrew Davidson, 6 Will Welch (captain), 7 Gary Graham (John Hardie, 57), 8 Nemani Nagusa (Will Witty, 71).
Falcons scorers - Tries: Nemani Nagusa. Conversions: Toby Flood. Penalties: Toby Flood 2.
Bath Rugby: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni (Ruaridh McConnochie, 40), 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Joe Cokanasiga, 10 Rhys Priestland (Freddie Burns, 73), 9 Will Chudley (co-captain, Max Green, 65); 1 Nathan Catt (Jacques van Rooyen, 57), 2 Tom Dunn (Jack Walker, 57), 3 Henry Thomas (Max Lahiff, 65), 4 Dave Attwood (Charlie Ewels, 49), 5 Luke Charteris (co-captain), 6 Elliott Stooke, 7 Francois Louw, 8 Zach Mercer (Paul Grant, 70).
Bath scorers - Tries: Semesa Rokoduguni, Joe Cokanasiga, Will Chudley, Francois Louw. Conversions: Rhys Priestland. Penalties: Rhys Priestland 2.
Referee: JP Doyle. Attendance: 14,331.
Homer, Rokoduguni, Joseph, Roberts, Cokanasiga, Priestland, Chudley, Catt, Dunn, Thomas, Attwood, Charteris, Stooke, Louw, Mercer
Replacements Walker, Van Rooyen, Lahiff, Ewels, Grant, Green, Burns, McConnochie
Hammersley, Kibirige, Harris, Bettencourt, Sinoti, Flood, Young, Lockwood, Cooper, Wilson, Green, Davidson, Welch, Graham, Nagusa
Replacements Socino, Brocklebank, Payne, Witty, Hardie, Takulua, Connon, Stevenson
referee: JP Doyle
assistant: Anthony Woodthorpe
assistant: Matthew O'Grady
TMO: Stuart Terheege