Newcastle Falcons tamed horrendous conditions to continue their unbeaten start to the Premiership Rugby Cup, outgunning Bath in a Friday night clash dominated by wind and rain.
It was one for the hardcore as Newcastle’s loyal and rain-soaked followers roared them all the way in temperatures which tested even the most committed of followers, but they were rewarded for their dedication in a result which leaves the club firmly in the reckoning for a semi-final spot ahead of the final round of pool games.
Newcastle began the game playing at quite a pace, winning back their own kick-off and keeping the ball in hand during an opening spell which saw fly-half Joel Hodgson challenging the gain line on a regular basis.
Portugese centre Pedro Bettencourt was within a whisker of an early try as he broke near the left corner, the Falcons also fronting up defensively as they stole a Bath line-out on their own 22 and marched the visitors backwards at the first scrum of the night.
Keen running from Hodgson and the support of lock Andrew Davidson almost delivered the night’s opening try on 17 minutes when the Falcons fell just short of the line, but they did not have long to wait until Michael Young broke the deadlock on the stroke of 20 minutes.
It all stemmed from the scrum-half’s decision to run the ball from the base of a midfield ruck as Bath expected the box kick, Young working the short-side in a passage which saw Davidson and Alex Tait exchanging passes with each other before freeing the supporting Young for a jog-in.
Hodgson converted into the wind, and took his side’s advantage to double figures before the half-hour when he sent over a penalty from the left-hand side after another line-out steal got the hosts into promising field position.
The torrential rain and punishing winds made handling difficult for both sides as more of a tactical kicking battle ensued, the middle third soaking up much of the pressure with neither side wanting to be caught in possession in their own territory.
Neither side troubled the scorers in the closing stages of the half as the conditions deteriorated even further, the Falcons coming closest but finding themselves stripped in the tackle on a succession of occasions as their interval lead stood at 10-0.
They managed to add seven to that total just five minutes after the resumption, Simon Hammersley crossing down the right after cutting a super line following a pick-and-go sequence near the Bath try-line.
Hodgson somehow converted from the touchline despite the wind, the game’s fluency taking a notable dip as understandable handling errors drained much of the continuity.
It took a piece of individual brilliance to light up proceedings 13 minutes from time, Sinoti Sinoti the man to produce it as he beat two defenders to score in the left corner.
That left Newcastle needing one more try for a bonus point, but it was Bath who found their way over when replacement flanker Josh Bayliss scooped up a loose midfield ball and hared 50 metres to the line, Alex Davies adding the extras.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Pedro Bettencourt (Ben Stevenson, 56), 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Joel Hodgson (Toby Flood, 60), 9 Michael Young (Sam Stuart, 67); 1 Sam Lockwood (Trevor Davison, 40), 2 George McGuigan (Kyle Cooper, 40), 3 Jon Welsh (David Wilson, 40), 4 Calum Green, 5 Andrew Davidson (Glen Young, 60), 6 Ryan Burrows (captain, John Hardie, 65), 7 Gary Graham, 8 Callum Chick.
Falcons scorers - Tries: Michael Young, Simon Hammersley, Sinoti Sinoti. Conversions: Joel Hodgson 2. Penalties: Joel Hodgson.
Bath Rugby: 15 Tom Homer (Joe Cokanasiga, 56), 14 Levi Davis, 13 Jack Wilson, 12 Max Clark, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Alex Davies (captain), 9 Max Green (Chris Cook, 56); 1 Will Vaughan (Sam Nixon, 40), 2 Michael van Vuuren (Ross Batty, 56), 3 Max Lahiff (Victor Delmas, 40), 4 Will Britton, 5 Levi Douglas (Josh Bayliss, 45), 6 Jack Davies, 7 Josh Bainbridge, 8 Miles Reid (Tom Doughty, 30).
Bath scorers - Tries: Josh Bayliss. Conversions: Alex Davies.
Referee: Andrew Woodthorpe. Attendance: 5,425.