Bath Rugby continued their good start to the Aviva Premiership Rugby season as they swept aside second-bottom Newcastle Falcons thanks to an inspired display from fly-half Gavin Henson.
The 32-year-old booted 13 points for Mike Ford’s side to help them secure their sixth straight win at the Recreation Ground and extend their run against the Falcons to just one loss in 19 matches.
The hosts led 10-7 at the interval as captain Stuart Hooper touched down following Mark Wilson’s score for the Falcons before Jonathan Joseph claimed a converted try on 52 minutes and Henson landed two further penalties.
Sinoti Sinoti crossed over late on to give Bath a scare but it proved to be nothing more than a consolation as Dean Richards’s side fell to their fifth league defeat of the season.
It was the visitors who started the brighter, however, and they should have taken the lead early on but Argentine fly-half Juan Pablo Socino was unable to convert either of his opening penalty attempts despite being well placed.
Newcastle, who came into the match in search of a third straight Aviva Premiership Rugby victory, continued to press but Socino’s missed chances soon proved costly.
A swift passing move from Bath saw the ball end up in the hands of former Welsh international Henson and his drop goal gave the hosts a 27th-minute lead with his first points of the season.
It wouldn’t last for long, however, as Newcastle secured a five-metre line-out before Wilson – who had been denied by a TMO decision just minutes before – broke free of the Falcons maul and touched down for his second try in as many games and Socino added the extras to make it 3-7 on 35 minutes.
With time winding down in the opening period it was Hooper who would have the final say as he collected the ball from the base of the maul before crashing over for his first try since April and regaining the lead for his side as Henson added two more to give Mike Ford’s men a 10-7 lead at the break.
With England head coach Stuart Lancaster having called up many of Bath’s first team, Mike Ford was forced into making a string of changes including recalling Hooper and Joseph to the side and giving a full Premiership debut to exciting young forward Charlie Ewels.
But despite the changes, Bath showed no signs of missing Semesa Rokoduguni and co and they moved further ahead when Joseph touched down his sixth try in seven matches before Henson kicked over.
With 13 minutes to go, Henson extended the Bath advantage with a penalty after Socino was sent to the bin for repeated infringements and offsides at the ruck.
But the visitors fought back and set up a tense final 10 minutes when Sinoti was found in space and the winger dotted down before Rory Clegg converted to make it 20-14.
With less than two minutes remaining a powerful scrum from the Bath forwards led to another Henson penalty attempt and he kept his cool to kick over his 13th point of the match to complete a sublime kicking performance and deny Newcastle a losing bonus point.