Semesa Rokoduguni scored two tries on debut as Bath Rugby kicked off their LV= Cup campaign with a comprehensive victory over Newport Gwent Dragons.
The Fijian winger, a reconnaissance tank solider of the Royal Scots Dragoon in the British Army, was handed a full-time contract at The Rec last month after an impressive trial period and rewarded head coach Gary Gold’s faith with an impressive performance against the RaboDirect Pro12 strugglers.
Fly-half Tom Heathcote also showcased his promising talents by adding 21 points with the boot in a perfect kicking display to put pressure on the under-fire Stephen Donald following last week’s last-gasp Aviva Premiership defeat at London Welsh.
Heathcote got Bath on the scoreboard early with a long-range penalty, but the hosts still looked asleep when Dragons got the game’s first try after six minutes.
Brett Sharman’s lineout throw went long and Newport pounced on possession. Pat Leach threw the ball wide to Hallam Amos and he skipped down the touchline before passing inside to Ross Wardle to charge over the whitewash. Steffan Jones added the extras.
The home side were soon awake, however, and hit back with a try of their own. Olly Woodburn won a turnover on the right, Heathcote cut through the visitors’ defence and offloaded to Rokoduguni, who ran 20 metres to the line.
Heathcote split the posts with the conversion and continued to show his capabilities on his first start of the season by adding four further penalties before the break.
Jones replied with a solitary kick at goal midway through the half for Dragons, but his side’s task got even steeper when second row Ian Nimmo was sin-binned for a high tackle on Heathcote on the stroke of the interval.
Bath made the most of their numerical advantage as soon as the second half got under way, scoring a try within three minutes of the restart.
Guy Mercer broke through the Newport defence and offloaded to Josh Ovens, who found Matt Banahan to charge through two tackles and under the posts from close range for a converted try.
Dragons threatened once they returned to their full complement of players and only a last-ditch tackle from replacement Richard Lane prevented Wardle from crossing in the corner.
Once the home side were back on the front foot, though, Newport were again reduced to 14, with captain Jevon Groves receiving a yellow card following repeated infringements from his side.
Bath’s persistent attacks were rewarded with Rokoduguni’s second touchdown from Heathcote’s lightning pass, with the fly-half rounding off his perfect record with a close-range conversion.
Newport had the final word, however, with replacement Dan Evans crossing in the corner following a breakaway attack, with his missed conversion bringing an end to proceedings.
For Bath this marked a promising return to form following last week’s London Welsh agony, with their only regret being the failure to add a fourth bonus-point try which their dominance deserved.
That could prove pivotal in their bid for LV= Cup progress when they face a much sterner challenge at Premiership champions Harlequins next Friday.
Bath: Devoto, Woodburn, Hipkiss (Lane 23), Banahan (Adamson 60), Rokoduguni, Heathcote, McMillan (Cook 14), Beech (Dowding 67), Sharman (Tanner 61), Perenise (Palma-Newport 67), Hooper, Spencer (Caldwell 53), Ovens, Mercer, Taylor. Replacement not used: Skuse.
Tries: Rokoduguni 2, Banahan Conversions: Heathcote 3 Penalties: Heathcote 5
Newport: Amos (D Evans 28), Harries, Leach, Dixon, Wardle, S Jones (Smith 49), Davies (W Evans 49), O Evans (Williams 58), Gustafson (Parry 58), Buck (Ryan 63), Nimmo, A Jones (Tyler 63), Groves, Cudd, I Jones (Brown 69).
Tries: Wardle, D Evans Conversion: S Jones Penalty: S Jones