New signing Semesa Rokoduguni scored two tries on his debut as Bath started their LV= Cup campaign with a comfortable 36-15 victory over Newport-Gwent Dragons.
The former Army back, who served in Afghanistan, scored nine minutes into the first half and with seven remaining in the second in a match which begun with an immaculately observed minute’s silence ahead of Remembrance Sunday.
Young fly-half Tom Heathcote enjoyed a stellar day from the kicking tee with eight from eight attempts, with Matt Banahan’s early second-half try the killer blow for a Dragons side still yet to win away from home this season.
Ross Wardle had crossed in the opening four minutes for the Dragons but they failed to build on their encouraging start, Dan Evans crossing in the closing stages for a consolation.
The defeat extends Newport’s losing run to six games on the bounce, while giving Bath a perfect start to the competition after falling at the semi-final stage to Leicester last season.
Both sides used the match to ring the changes, Olly Woodburn making his first senior appearance of the season on the wing for Bath, with Ollie Devoto making his first appearance at full-back.
Dragons handed starts to academy trio Wayne Evans, wing Ross Wardle, and flanker Jevon Groves, who was named captain for the afternoon.
Heathcote, who is yet to make an Aviva Premiership appearance this season, opened Bath’s account after just two minutes with a penalty from out wide after Dragons were penalised for not releasing at the breakdown.
But Dragons counter-attacked brilliantly and crossed the whitewash almost immediately, spreading the ball wide with wing Wardle going over, Steffan Jones splitting the posts with the conversion to put the visitors 7-3 up.
Bath’s response was clinical, working well through the phases before a Heathcote offload released Fijian Rokoduguni to race away and score – the fly-half adding the extra points to put Bath 10-7 in front after nine minutes.
The next ten minutes were scoreless as the match became a bruising encounter, with Chris Cook replacing an injured Mark McMillan and Dan Hipkiss limping off for Rich Lane.
After some good Bath pressure came to nothing Heathcote pushed the home side further ahead with another penalty from out wide, but Jones hit back immediately with one of his own from in front of the posts to make it 13-10.
It was becoming a kicking contest and Heathcote extended Bath’s lead to six points again on 25 minutes, finding the target from 15 metres out after Dragons had been penalised for handling at the ruck.
The young fly-half was imposing his mark on the game in the midfield and nearly freed Devoto through for a try with another offload, but the full-back was unable to hold on to the ball as he broke free.
And the 20-year-old continued his impressive afternoon from the tee with another successful penalty five minutes before half-time after Adam Jones was penalised for collapsing a rolling maul.
As half-time approached, Jones missed a chance to narrow the gap to six from distance when his kick fell well short after a high tackle from Banahan.
On the stroke of half-time Dragons prop Ian Nimmo was sent to the sin-bin for killing the ball, handing Heathcote another penalty to extend the lead to 22-10 at the interval.
Bath started the second half in emphatic style and made the numerical advantage count, scoring a superb team try as they worked through the phases before England centre Matt Banahan touched down under the posts.
Josh Ovens, Anthony Perenise, and Devoto were all involved, with Rokoduguni providing the pass for the centre to cross, Heathcote scoring the simplest of conversions to extend the lead to 29-10.
Jones again failed to find distance with a penalty from half way after a Bath infringement at the scrum.
Newport were pushing for a score and looked to have found it on the hour mark as Wardle crossed, but replacement wing Richard Lane did well to drag his foot into touch before he touched down.
It was the last real chance for the visitors to get back into the game, and with time ticking away Rokoduguni capitalised on a static backline to race away for his second of the afternoon, Heathcote again adding the extras.
And with four minutes to play some good work by the Dragons forwards released replacement Evans to race away for what was little more than a consolation try three minutes from time.