Bath reinforced their GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP play-off credentials by ending Newcastle’s six-match winning run at a sun-kissed Recreation Ground.
Again, World Cup winning fly-half Butch James was the key figure, kicking five first half penalties – and being sin-binned – before tries from Joe Maddock (2) and Andy Beattie took the game away from the Falcons.
James ended with a perfect goalkicking tally of seven from seven in this GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP contest.
Bath, buoyed by the return of skipper Michael Lipman after two months out with a head injury, were on the attack from the kick-off, keeping the ball until Newcastle fell offside and James kicked his first goal from in front of the posts.
The home side’s line-out was soon under pressure however. Phil Dowson’s steal was followed by a good run from Tane Tu’ipulotu but Bath escaped punishment when Tom May hooked a penalty from near 40 metres.
Newcastle, full of confidence following the winning run which ended any relegation fears, stepped up the pace and created an overlap try in the 11th minute for right wing Tim Visser, converted from the touchline by May.
Bath had been guilty of falling off tackles in the face of determined running from Tu’ipulotu and Jamie Noon but upped the intensity and began to force penalties from the visitors, James reducing the deficit to 7-6 from nearly 40 metres.
Well matched in most areas, Bath appeared to have the edge through James’s tactical kicking which ensured a decided advantage in territory.
However, James showed his weaker side when he needlessly pushed Visser aside in chasing a kick.
The South African then took a blow to the face but quickly regained his senses to land his third penalty to regain the lead on 28 minutes and added a fourth five minutes later.
This was reward for territorial dominance and patience, as was his fifth penalty on 36 minutes, punishing Newcastle’s lack of discipline around the tackle.
Somewhat surprisingly, Bath’s try came from long range as Nick Abendanon collected Alex Tait’s kick downfield and Bath launched an attack down the right.
Hooker Rob Hawkins made the break and found Maddock on his shoulder, providing the little New Zealander with his 10th try in the league this season.
James converted but May, offered a penalty at the other end on the stroke of half-time, pushed the chance wide.
The Newcastle fly-half made amends straight after the restart with a simpler kick to reduce Bath’s lead to 22-10 and also converted a 48th-minute try by flanker Brent Wilson, bouncing off an attempted tackle by Daniel Browne.
Back came Bath, James setting up a dangerous position in the left corner with one of his trademark cross kicks but Banahan was held in the corner from the resulting line-out and scrum.
The home side made no mistake though when they were given another scrum, as Browne made a thrust for the line and Andy Beattie followed up to score. James made it seven kicks out of seven with the conversion.
Just when it seemed that Bath might ease away James was shown the yellow card for a shoulder charge on Tu’ipulotu and May kicked the penalty.
As James prepared to return, Alex Tait attempted to lob a pass to Andrew Fenby but it was too ambitious and Maddock snapped up the interception to grab his second try, converted by Shaun Berne.
Bath went in search of the four-try bonus point but as the game loosened up it was Newcastle who had the last word with a try by Fenby.