Mike Ford admits Bath Rugby got off lucky after they scraped past Newcastle Falcons 21-19 at the Rec on Friday evening.
Semesa Rokoduguni’s two late first-half tries – the first of which followed an irresistible piece of skill – sent the hosts in 12-7 ahead at the interval against the run of play.
And Tom Homer was the man to hold his nerve for Bath, nailing two penalties inside the final ten minutes to edge his side home – but the home crowd were treated to a grandstand finish as Falcons fly-half Mike Delany saw three golden drop-goal chances go begging.
And with a host of faces set to return for his side this week, Ford believes the triumph – which handed Bath consecutive home wins for the first time this season – could be a turning point for his side in their hunt for a top-six finish.
“We defended for 31 phases there at the end, which is phenomenal not to give away a penalty,” he said. “We were ill-disciplined at times having two sent to the bin and giving away several penalties in a row.
“But we’re pleased to get away with it, and being in the position we are in and with the confidence we are lacking, it’s always good to come in on Monday with a win behind us.
“We’ve got the England boys, Dave Denton, Rhys Priestland all hopefully coming back healthy next week, as well as Kyle Eastmond, Amanaki Mafi and Nick Auterac, so that is ten players there who all can start for us.
“We constantly can’t put the right kind of pressure on teams. We went to 12-7 and had to score next. A scoreline of 19-7 makes it a very different game and it’s not happening for us at the moment.
“This is the first time we’ve had a consecutive No.10 playing in nine games. And with Kyle pulling out at the last minute today, it’s not helping. They are our key decision-makers and ball-players, so we’re struggling to get field position.
“But hopefully the cavalry will come back on Monday, and we’ll build on this win and get some confidence going into Gloucester Rugby next week.”
The Falcons saw a number of key opportunities go begging aside from Delany’s late drop-goal attempts, with Marcus Watson stopped in his tracks by Matt Banahan and George McGuigan unable to get the ball down from a cheeky lineout before being forced into touch in the first half.
So Newcastle remain one of only two sides in Aviva Premiership Rugby not to have recorded an away league victory this season, and director of rugby Dean Richards admitted they only had themselves to blame.
He said: “We probably left 16 or 18 points out there on the pitch which is really disappointing to be honest.
“At the same time we are getting there slowly and we’ve just got to learn to nail these chances when they come along. We’ve got to start taking them.
“Everyone in the changing room after said we should have won it, and we should have won this one at a canter given how the game went.
“We didn’t take enough of the opportunities we had to score. We should have driven them rather than taking the lineout at the front in the first half, and we missed a few points with the boot as well which cost us dear.”
Bath Rugby: Homer, Rokoduguni (Agulla 58), Clark, Banahan, Williams, Devoto, Cook, Lahiff (Catt 59), Webber, Wilson (Thomas 48), Hooper (Ewels, 64), Day, Garvey, Louw, Houston
Not used: Tom Dunn, Guy Mercer, Jonathan Evans, Will Homer
Newcastle Falcons: Hammersley, Venditti, Harris, Socino (Agulla, 70), Watson, Delany, Takulua (Young 55), Vickers (Rogers 65), McGuigan (Lawson 65), Vea (Hatakeyama 65), Botha (Robinson 58), Green, Wilson, Welch, Latu (Hogg 70)
Not used: Craig Willis
Tries: Rokoduguni 2
Penalties: Homer 3
Yellow Cards: Louw, Thomas
Penalties: Delany 3
Yellow Cards: Lawson
Referee: T Wigglesworth