Bath Rugby overcame the loss of several key personnel early in the game to run out comfortable 24-6 winners over Newcastle Falcons and extend their impressive home record.
It is more than four years since the Falcons last won at the Rec and they never looked like ending that run despite leading 6-3 shortly after the interval.
But a moment of class from George Ford got Bath’s noses back in front and they went on to win comfortably with second-half tries from Horacio Agulla, Leroy Houston and Francois Louw at the death.
Kiwi Houston replaced Carl Fearns in the starting line-up after the England man suffered an injury in the warm-up.
And the game was only eight minutes old when Noah Cato caught Bath’s Nick Abendanon in the face, forcing the full-back from the field to be replaced by Agulla, with Anthony Watson moving from the wing to the No.15 slot.
Rob Webber followed Abendanon off the field with a lower leg injury, Ross Batty replacing him as Bath faced 72 minutes without three of their first choice side.
It was a poor first half with a strong wind making it extremely hard for the kickers. Newcastle were penalised for going off their feet but Ford was unable to make them pay, his penalty fading to the right of the posts – the first of two successive misses.
When Will Welch knocked on a Scott Macleod pass in front of the posts handing Bath a dangerous scrum, the Falcons pack were pinged again for boring in and at the third attempt Ford found the uprights to make it 3-0 on 17 minutes.
It was no more than Bath deserved, having played the first quarter in Newcastle’s half.
There was little between the sides – barring another missed Ford penalty – until five minutes from the break when Bath went offside in their own half and Falcons No.10 Phil Godman made no mistake to level things up against the run of play.
Newcastle went in a man down after Oliver Tomaszczyk was sent to the sin bin, the fall guy for persistent infringement from the Newcastle players.
But despite the disadvantage Newcastle took the lead upon the restart, Godman with another penalty after Watson was penalised for holding on in the tackle.
It looked like this game would be decided by the smallest of margins but with the weather clearing Bath began to play more positive rugby, and they scored the first try of the game seven minutes into the second half.
Ford bamboozled the Newcastle defence with a delightful show and go before playing a gorgeous pass to Agulla to steam over the line.
The fly-half added the extras to give Bath a 10-6 advantage, and shortly afterwards it was 17-6 as Peter Stringer spun the ball wide from an attacking lineout with the ball going through the hands and ending with Houston who dived over the whitewash, Ford converting.
With Tomaszczyk back on the field Newcastle continued to defend and make life difficult for Bath but the introduction of Anthony Perenise to the Bath pack seemed to give the home side dominance up front.
Bath pushed for a third try with Perenise himself held up over the line, and Falcons persistence ensured it didn’t arrive until a few seconds before the final whistle.
It was Francois Louw who got it, smuggling the ball over the line from close range with Ford converting to give the scoreline a healthy look for Bath.