Bath ease to win at Newcastle
Newcastle's return to the Aviva Premiership was dealt an early blow as they were beaten 21-0 on a dismal night under the lights at Kingston Park.
George Ford kicked three penalties and a conversion for Bath, with Anthony Perenise crossing the line from a rolling maul and a late penalty try sealing the win, as the home side failed to master the wind and rain in the season's opener.
The match marked the return of Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards to the English top flight for the first time in four years, after he navigated Newcastle's promotion at the first time of asking following a three-year worldwide ban in the wake of the Bloodgate scandal at Harlequins.
Friday's game was under some scrutiny following the introduction of new scrum laws in the English top flight, which are being trialed in the northern hemisphere this season.
It was a difficult first test on a windy and soggy night in the north east, and there were some early teething problems as the first two scrums of the night took more than a minute apiece to set, with the almost immediate collapse of one and the other resulting in a quick penalty to Bath.
Bath started the brightest and despite the slippery conditions showed their intentions of wanting to run the ball. That earned them their first chance of points, with Bath's new fly-half Ford taking aim at the posts and rifling his strike straight through the middle for an early lead.
There was then a lengthy injury delay following some broken play as Falcons centre Jamie Helleur left the field on a stretcher after what looked to be a nasty head injury, to be replaced by Adam Powell.
The relentless rain saw the first half degenerate into a scrappy, aerial battle, with traction on the ground and the ball at a premium, and sideways movement the only direction readily available to either sides' attacking efforts.
Newcastle's new scrum-half Mike Blair then had some problems of at the set piece, as a moving scrum prevented him from feeding the ball, with Bath duly awarded the ball.
Some more scrappy play followed, before Bath full-back Anthony Watson made a good break and Falcons' debutant prop Kieran Brookes replied shortly after with a solid run in midfield, feeding the ball to wing Noah Cato, who was hauled down inside the Bath 22 in Newcastle's most threatening move.
The Falcons finally found their feet at the scrum, with a penalty awarded after it turned, but fly-half Phil Godman was unable to covert the points in the swirling conditions.
Ford had no problems at the other end, though, with a 40-metre kick just making it over the crossbar after lock Carlo del Fava was penalised for being offside.
Gavin Henson was then met with boos usually reserved for pantomine villains after he replaced the injured Kyle Eastmond from the bench in the final minute of the first half as the clock ticked down on a dismal opening 40 minutes.
The former Wales international's first touch came early in the second half, but was a rather embarassing netball-style chest pass which went straight into touch.
Newcastle looked much brighter, with a break upfield from the scrum only stopped after a pass to Danny Barnes went to ground, with new man Andy Saull opening up Bath's defence after a quick tap from Blair.
Ford edged the visitors further ahead from close to the touchline after Newcastle were penalised following a drive forward from Bath.
Bath then dealt Newcastle a hammer blow as they crossed the line, with substitute prop Perenise awarded the try following a rolling maul.
Bath then wrapped up the win with a late penalty try with Ford adding the extras as Newcastle started their campaign in the worst possible way.