Bath Rugby’s backs shared the spoils as they kept their Aviva Premiership Rugby title ambitions on course with a tenth consecutive victory at Kingston Park.
Man-of-the-match Ollie Devoto and Semesa Rokoduguni made the early inroads for the visitors before Sinoti Sinoti hit back with a scintillating try.
However Anthony Watson and Matt Banahan replied quickly either side of half time to clinch the bonus point and, despite Rory Clegg’s haul of 11 points from the tee, Newcastle Falcons could never get close enough in the second half.
One of the major plotlines of the night was Sam Burgess’ first Aviva Premiership Rugby start at flanker, having spent the majority of his Bath career thus far in the centres.
Along with skipper Francois Louw he made his presence felt early on, but Newcastle’s scrum won the first sparring bout to hand Clegg a penalty from 40 metres out.
And Clegg, on his first Aviva Premiership Rugby start since late November, had enough oomph and direction to clear the posts.
Upon the restart Bath quickly won a penalty of their own and, after George Ford kicked to the corner, only an almighty effort from the Falcons defence held up a rolling maul.
But Ford unpicked the lock following a five-metre scrum, committing his man before feeding Devoto – who barrelled his way over the line. Ford chipped through the routine extras.
Newcastle may not have been strangers to Bath territory but were failing to make the penalties and pressure count in the same way as their visitors.
Just past the quarter-hour mark, England’s star centre Jonathan Joseph flung a lightning pass to
Rokoduguni from short range and the wing cantered over to record his eighth Aviva Premiership Rugby try of the season.
Nevertheless the Falcons continued to keep in touch and after Clegg put the pressure on with a long kick from hand, he took advantage of Bath not rolling away to slot another three-pointer.
Rokoduguni thought he had scored again soon after but in the build-up, Burgess was adjudged to have knocked on after never having the ball fully in control.
Kingston Park was then brought to a standing ovation as Sinoti peeled away to the corner from 20 metres out, evading three defenders before somehow keeping his feet the right side of touch.
His pace did the rest and Clegg hit a conversion from the sideline befitting of the try.
But just before half time Bath dampened the mood, as Devoto’s exceptional dummy ripped a hole in Newcastle’s line and Watson needed no second invitation to sprint through.
Ford’s conversion stretched Bath’s lead out to six points and they came out looking just as menacing after the break.
Banahan scooped up the bonus-point – and the fourth of the night from a Bath back – after bursting through midfield for his 40th Aviva Premiership Rugby try.
With Sinoti around there would be no respite for Bath however, and he and Clegg nearly created a try-scoring opening – instead settling for the three points.
The game then began to be slugged out at the set-piece and Newcastle gained an advantage when Carl Fearns was sent to the sin bin for an infringement in the maul.
Only Bath’s relentless defence staved off a Newcastle try and they did well to ensure that replacement Tom
Catterick’s penalty were the only points they yielded.
With their full complement restored the visitors managed the rest of the game expertly, and Ford hit a penalty eight minutes from time to finally take the game out of Newcastle’s reach.
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