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Match Report: Newcastle Falcons 19 Bath Rugby 14

02 Jan 2016
Match Report: Newcastle Falcons 19 Bath Rugby 14

Craig Willis slotted two late penalties to secure Newcastle Falcons their first Aviva Premiership Rugby victory of the season and lift them off the foot of the table.

The Falcons – who had not beaten Bath Rugby at Kingston Park since 2003 – scored their only try through Rob Vickers in the first half and led 13-8 at half-time in miserable conditions. 

Mike Ford’s Bath side – runners up last year – had taken the lead early on through Guy Mercer's try and despite falling behind re-established the lead in the second half thanks to the boot of Rhys Priestland. 

But the 20-year-old Willis- wayward from the tee for much of the match – held his nerve late on to give director of rugby Dean Richards something to smile about and secure a famous win.

The Falcons – with the wind at their backs in the first half – made the first inroads but Willis missed with a tough early penalty chance.

And the visitors punished them straight away – a driving maul catching the Falcons forwards cold and captain for the day Mercer emerged from the pile of bodies as the Bath try scorer.

The wind was playing havoc with goalkicking, Priestland missing with the extras while Willis slotted one penalty but missed another to make it 5-3 to the away team after quarter of an hour.

But it was the hosts who were beginning to dominate and in the 20th minute they got their reward as Vickers burrowed over from close range.

Willis was on target with the extras but Priestland replied with a penalty to trim the lead to 10-8 and the Falcons looked like they were wasting a dominant opening period.

The young Falcons No.10 – in only his second start – missed his third kick of the half soon after and the home side were then denied a try by the TMO – Bath adjudged to have held the ball up over the line.

The good news for the Falcons was that referee Matthew Carley was playing advantage and Willis rediscovered his range to slot his second penalty while Bath’s persistent infringements saw Henry Thomas sent to the bin.

Mike Ford’s side held out with their numerical disadvantage until the break as the two sides turned around with the Falcons disappointed to be only 13-8 ahead.

And their lead was soon trimmed after the break as 14-man Bath earned a penalty when the otherwise impressive Nili Latu infringed at the breakdown and Priestland slotted.

Restored to their full complement and with the weather now in their favour – Bath began to dominate proceedings with their front row turning the screw.

A scrum earned another penalty soon after which Priestland hooked wide but the Welshman made amends on the hour mark to put Bath back in front at 14-13.

Former Falcon Davey Wilson came on for Bath and their scrum continued to advance but with George Ford now on for Priestland they could not create another kickable chance.

And up the other end a fantastic counter attack down the left from Marcus Watson put the Falcons in range – the winger held up over the line after a clever kick had caused carnage.

But the Falcons built the phases from the subsequent five-metre scrum and finally won a penalty when Leroy Houston went offside and from right in front of the posts, Willis could not miss to put the Falcons back in front with only ten minutes remaining.

And while Bath dominated both possession and territory in the final stages they lacked penetration and the Falcons held firm – Willis slotting another penalty with the final kick of the game to claim what could prove to be a vital victory as they leapfrog London Irish in the standings.  

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