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Falcons beaten but still enjoy filed day.

Byline: MARK SMITH

Newcastle Falcons.................. 11 Bath ........................................... 14 NEWCASTLE Falcons slumped to their seventh defeat in a row at Kingston Park, but registered the bonus point which should be enough to secure their Aviva Premiership survival.

Luke Fielden's try six minutes from time got them back within the magical seven-point buffer zone required to register a bonus point - although there was a whiff of controversy about it.

The flying winger has shouldered much of the Falcons' try-scoring burden in his first top-flight season.

When Tane Tu'ipulotu grubbered in behind the Bath try-line, the former Bedford man had a 50-metre foot race with England's Nick Abendanon to dot the ball down.

Pinning his ears back and flicking on the turbo switch, he flung out an arm and then waited nervously as the breathless officials caught up with play to deliver their verdict.

With no video referee to call on, a brief consultation saw referee JP Doyle's arm pointing skywards, with more than 5,000 jubilant Geordies celebrating the try which could well secure a 15th successive top-flight season for the league's most northerly side.

The upshot of it all going into Saturday's final round of matches is Leeds need to gain a minimum of two match points at Northampton on the same day the Falcons travel to Bath.

Victory for the Falcons would cement their Premiership status regardless, with their vastly superior points difference giving Leeds a relative mountain to climb away at the East Midlands side.

Understandably no-one at Kingston Park was giving credence to the notion they are already safe, especially in light of the nervy fare on offer from a side beaten in all six of its last league encounters.

Far too often the home team failed to cling on to possession, with turnovers and handling errors blighting any prospect of continuity.

A scoreless opening quarter finally relented on 22 minutes as trusty flyhalf Jimmy Gopperth slotted a penalty from out on the right.

However, an increasingly dominant Bath side earned due rewards for their fringe running as skipper Michael Claasens sniped in for a close-range try.

One penalty apiece for Gopperth and South African counterpart Butch James kept the interval deficit at two points in favour of the visitors.

However, that soon increased to five as Vesty curled in a second penalty for the West Country side after the break.

A fairly uninspiring afternoon saw little further in the way of try-scoring opportunities as Bath hammered away at the edges of the ruck in the home 22, but Newcastle's defensive wall repeatedly failed to yield.

A second James penalty increased the tension 10 minutes from time as the Falcons slid outside of bonus point range before Fielden's late heroics got the house jumping again.

Victory it may not have been, but in the close confines of a Premiership relegation struggle any point will do.

ALEX TAIT ........................... 5 Bad concentration lapses LUKE FIELDEN.................. 6 His try may have staved off relegation ROB VICKERMAN ............. 5 Struggled with his handling TANE TU'IPULUTO........... 6 Line-break for Fielden's try GCOBANI BOBO................. 5 Defensively solid as usual JIMMY GOPPERTH........... 6 Held his nerve well MICKY YOUNG.................... 5 Spiky round the fringes JONNY GOLDING .............. 6 Steady scrummaging show MATT THOMPSON............. 5 Set-piece under stress EUAN MURRAY ..................6 Battled bravely against David Flatman JAMES HUDSON ............... 5 A quiet comeback from injury ANDREW VAN DER HEIJDEN............................... 6 Defensive kingpin TIM SWINSON ..................... 6 Covered every yard WILL WELCH ....................... 5 Battled at the breakdown ALLY HOGG .........................6 Late injury worry Replacements ROB VICKERS .........................6 (For Thompson, 48). Returning to form KIERAN BROOKES ..................6 (For Murray, 56). Decent impact late on MARK WILSON ........................5 (For Swinson, 66). Scrapped for every ball ALEX GRAY ..............................6 (For Welch, 51). Got around the park CHRIS PILGRIM ........................6 (For Hogg, 79). Last-minute cameo JAMES FITZPATRICK .............6 (For Vickerman, 67). No shortage of ballast JEREMY MANNING .................7 (For Tait, 48). Assured at the back Falcons scorers: Tries: Fielden.

Penalties: Gopperth 2. Bath scorers: Tries: Claasens. Penalties: James 2, Vesty. BATH: N Abendanon, J Boussuge (N Scott, 56), M Carraro, S Vesty (M McMillan, 61), T Biggs, B James, M Claasens (captain); D Flatman (N Catt, 56), L Mears (R Batty, 67), D Wilson (D Bell, 51), I Fernandez Lobbe (G Mercer, 70), D Grewcock (J Ovens, 79), B Skirving, L Moody, S Taylor. Referee: JP Doyle. Attendance: 5,213.

HOW THEY STAND AVIVA PREMIERSHIP RUGBY P W D L F ABoPts Leicester................ 2115 1 5562380 1173 Saracens................ 2117 0 4468305 472 Gloucester ............. 21 13 1 7 460 435 8 62 Northampton ........ 21 13 0 8 502 406 9 61 Bath ....................... 21 12 1 8 385 355 7 57 London Irish .......... 21 11 0 10 500 427 10 54 Harlequins ............. 21 9 2 10 469 368 11 51 Wasps .................... 21 9 1 11 417 476 5 43 Exeter .................... 21 9 0 12 407 452 5 39 Sale ........................ 21 6 1 14 415 550 6 32 Newcastle ............. 21 4 1 16 348 511 5 23 Leeds Carnegie ..... 21 4 0 17 291 559 6 22

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BATH TIME Jimmy Gopperth in action for the Falcons during the Aviva Premiership match with Bath at Kingston Park and (inset) crucial try-scorer Luke Fielden
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:5JAMA
Date:May 2, 2011
Words:866
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