Newcastle 19-14 Bath: Rookie fly-half Craig Willis kicks Falcons to first win of the season against Bath
The Falcons led 13-8 at the break thanks to Rob Vickers score combined with eight points from the tee from Craig Willis
Rhys Priestland put Bath ahead 14-13 after the break
Willis though added another two penalties to give the hosts their long-awaited first win of the season
Rookie fly-half Craig Willis’ goalkicking guided Newcastle Falcons to a first win of the season as they edged past Bath 19-14 in an overall scrappy affair at Kingston Park on Saturday.
The victory in atrocious conditions gave Dean Richards men four precious points, which lifts them off the bottom of the table.
Newcastle, who before today hadn’t managed an Aviva Premiership win in seven attempts, led 13-8 at half-time as Rob Vickers try combined with eight points from the tee from number 10 Willis gave them an unexpected 13-8 lead.
In atrocious conditions, Rhy Priestland slotted two three-pointers after the restart to give the visitors a narrow one-point lead. However, his opposite number Willis knocked over two penalties in the last ten minutes to give the Falcons the win.
Bath now remain rooted in mid-table following the defeat. Despite the losing bonus point they now sit seven points adrift of the play-off places.
Willis got the action underway at a wet and windy Kingston Park with the hosts having a chance at the posts early on, however, their young fly-half ‘s attempt drifted wide.
The Falcons were made to pay soon after as Mercer crashed over for the visitors to get Bath on the board after six minutes. The back-rower received the ball from a well-worked lineout drive; forcing the ball down under a pile of bodies but Priestland couldn’t add the extras, 0-5.
Willis though with his second attempt at goal after 12 minutes did get the Falcons on the board to narrow the gap to just two points, but did miss a chance to put Newcastle ahead soon after as his kick went wide.
However, Newcastle were in front as Vickers is driven over from close range for the score and Willis to put the hosts five points ahead with a quarter of the game gone, 10-5.
Priestland narrowed the gap for the visitors from the tee just shy of the half hour, but Bath found themselves ending the opening 40 down to 14 as Henry Thomas was shown a yellow card.
Willis knocked over another penalty to restore Newcastle’s five-point lead before half-time, giving the bottom of the table side a surprising 13-8 lead at the break.
The second half began exactly as Mike Ford would have wanted, with Bath made a lively start to the second half and narrowed the gap as Priestland slotted a penalty between the posts five minutes after the restart, 13-11
Bath, back up to their full compliment of players, then applied pressure to the Newcastle pack with a penalty eventually coming the visitors way with Priestland knocking over the kick to give Bath the lead by a single point.
Newcastle reclaimed their lead with a penalty from Willis as Bath were unable to cope with the hosts’ substitutions.
Willis then sealed the victory with another penalty in the last minute, securing a 19-14 victory.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Newcastle: Craig Willis
Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Marcus Watson, 10 Craig Willis, 9 Michael Young, 8 Nili Latu, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Ally Hogg, 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Mark Wilson, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Todd Clever, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Tom Catterick, 23 Belisario Agulla.
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Niko Matawalu, 8 David Denton, 7 Guy Mercer (c), 6 Leroy Houston, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Matt Garvey, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nick Auterac.
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 David Wilson, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 George Ford, 23 Anthony Watson.
Date: Saturday, January 2
Venue: Kingston Park
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Wayne Falla, John Meredith
TMO: Sean Davey