Bath claim bonus point win
Bath produced a ferocious bonus point victory over Newcastle at Kingston Park to keep alive their Aviva Premiership title bid.
With Sam Burgess making his first Premiership start at number six, Bath went for it from the start and were rewarded with three first-half tries and a fourth early in the second period as they recorded a 29-19 victory.
Fifteen points were rattled up in the first 16 minutes of the match as Bath, for whom England's George Ford delivered a fly-half masterclass, collected a brace of tries through Ollie Devoto and Semesa Rokoduguni.
Newcastle responded with a Sinoti Sinoti try but Anthony Watson's score on the stroke of half-time earned Bath a 19-13 lead at the interval, and then Matt Banahan went over in the 42nd minute to give the visitors their bonus point.
Bath are now six points behind Premiership leaders Northampton in the table and four above third-placed Saracens.
Rory Clegg's fourth-minute penalty after Bath dropped the scrum gave Newcastle the lead, but it did not last long with Ford putting a penalty in the corner which led to a scrum. From that number eight Leroy Houston picked up and Ford fed Devoto for the big centre to score under the posts.
Ford slotted over the conversion to make it 7-3 in the ninth minute and he went to the corner again with another penalty soon after, which led to centre Jonathan Joseph's long cut-out pass finding Rokoduguni to score in the corner in the 16th minute.
The extra points were missed on that occasion and Clegg was able to cut the difference to six with a second penalty in the 23rd minute.
Rokoduguni crossed again in the 27th minute but after checking with the TMO, referee JP Doyle ruled out the score because of a Bath knock-on close to the line.
The Falcons made the best use of the let-off with a try from Sinoti in the 31st minute. The winger looked to be going nowhere with a run from right to left but he brushed off four successive tackles with an aggressive run along the touchline to score in the corner.
Clegg's conversion put Newcastle 13-12 in front, but they could not hang on to the lead with Bath scoring their third try right on half-time. And what a cracker it was with Ford using a subtle delayed pass to allow full-back Watson to scythe through under the posts for another converted try.
Bath's bonus point score came just two minutes after the break with Banahan sailing through a gap which was made by the dummy runner.
Ford converted but Newcastle replied with a 47th-minute Clegg penalty five minutes later.
Tom Catterick added another penalty in the 68th minute to put Newcastle in losing bonus point range at 26-19 after the Falcons had pummelled away with successive line-out drives and Bath replacement Carl Fearns was sinbinned for dragging it down.
The majority of the 7,492 crowd were not happy with the decision to take the points but with just over 10 minutes left it looked the right one, until Ford kicked a 73rd-minute penalty to deny Newcastle their bonus.