Bath avoided their worst home league run for 20 years with a tense victory over Newcastle in the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP.
Steve Meehan’s men had lost the last two GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP games in front of their own fans but recorded their first league win in five to climb out of the bottom two.
Olly Barkley scored 15 points, including the opening try. But three penalty misses almost cost Bath dear in an error-strewn display from both sides.
Bath made four changes, including handing full debuts to prop Laurence Ovens and rugby league convert Chev Walker – while captain Zak Feaunati returned from injury to make his 100th appearance for the club.
Newcastle kept faith with all but one of the side that secured a first GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP away win for nine months against champions Sale – bringing in Andy Long for Matt Thompson in the front row.
Bath started in determined fashion, the Falcons barely touching the ball before conceding a penalty 30 metres from goal.
Barkley failed with his kick from near the right touchline but was soon given another chance, from halfway – and this time made no mistake.
The same could not be said about both sides’ general play, with possession squandered all too frequently.
Despite this, Newcastle managed to gain a foothold – and after encamping themselves in Bath’s half, wasted a glorious opportunity to score when James Hoyle failed to spot John Rudd in an acre of space on the left wing.
The visitors continued to dominate – and after pouncing on an awful Bath line-out, they levelled through Tom May’s close-range drop-goal midway through the half.
Parity was short-lived, more indiscipline allowing Barkley to restore Bath’s lead with another long-range penalty.
In the meantime, Newcastle had suffered another blow when inside centre Mark Mayerhofler – who had passed a late fitness test – was withdrawn for Joe Shaw.
Moments later, an interception from Lee Dickson prevented a breakaway Bath try.
But once again, the respite was brief as Shaun Berne wriggled past Hoyle – and Barkley broke two tackles to score under the posts.
Persistent infringement from Falcons flanker Ben Woods saw him ‘binned’ moments before half-time, but Barkley failed to punish the offence from just inside the opposition half.
The visitors then lost their other flanker when a dazed-looking Geoff Parling was replaced by Brent Wilson.
But they rallied well, and a late surge allowed Burke’s penalty to cut the deficit to seven points.
Newcastle made another change during the interval, Robbie Morris coming on for David Wilson at prop.
Elementary errors continued to dog both sides, especially Newcastle, with Bath failing to capitalise.
Barkley missed another penalty from halfway, and the Falcons took advantage – Burke knocking over his second close-range penalty of the afternoon.
After a host of substitutions, Newcastle went in front.
Loki Crichton’s chip to the left corner looked to have been intercepted by a sliding Michael Stephenson – but the ball squirmed free, allowing Shaw a crucial final touch.
Burke missed the conversion, making it a one-point game.
Clearly stung, Bath played some of the best rugby of the match.
Breaking from deep in their own half and winning a five-metre line-out, they produced a powerful maul which carried prop David Barnes over – and Barkley converted from tight on the left touchline.
Newcastle tried to respond, but Bath held on for a deserved win.