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The Johann van Graan verdict on Finn Russell's winning Bath return

By PA
Finn Russell with some fans after his Bath comeback on Friday at Newcastle (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

Johann van Graan was relieved to see fly-half Finn Russell emerge unscathed on his injury return as Bath jumped to second in the Gallagher Premiership with a 28-17 win at Newcastle Falcons.

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Russell returned from a month out to nail four conversions as his side secured a bonus point in a rampant Friday night first half that saw Thomas du Toit, Ben Spencer, Joe Cokanasiga, and Matt Gallagher all score.

Van Graan was full of praise for the Scot, who was making his first start since picking up a groin injury, as Bath edge towards the play-offs. He said: “Very glad he is back on the pitch, think he played for 70 minutes.

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“Credit to him and the medical staff for getting back on (the pitch) – I thought his passing game was really good and his kicking was excellent.”

Gallagher finished off a superb team move for the fourth try, which involved Russell – and van Graan complimented his side picking their moments to strike.

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He said: “From a back’s perspective, we had some real good strikes, and we kept the ball just before that for quite a few phases (before) picking them off.

“Give Newcastle credit, they fought until the 80th minute and I think for us, we planned really well for this game – we were really positive at the start and got some reward.”

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“In these games, you need to take your points – I thought we managed what we could, but it wasn’t perfect (and) certainly won’t go down as a classic.”

Jamie Blamire was a rare bright spot in a dismal first half for the home side, scoring twice. But the Falcons’ director of rugby Steve Diamond was less than impressed with the errors his side made.

He said: “The first half, we gave three crucial penalties away that give them attacking positions, then we couldn’t react quick enough.

“The very fact that two tries were scored (when) they were five metres from the lineout, not 10 metres, is irrelevant if we are honest. They beat us around in the first half, and we were lucky to go in at the score we did – 28-10.

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“At half time, I said to them, ‘Stop feeling sorry for yourselves – what have they done to create 28 points?’ Three penalties, from us – silly penalties.”

Sam Stuart scored the only second-half try to reduce the deficit further, but a comeback was not to be. Diamond reiterated the size of the job at Kingston Park and commented on his feelings about it.

He said: “It’s water off a duck’s back, that – what we are trying to create here is a rejuvenation of a proud club and it will take more than four or five games.

“We can’t criticise the players’ commitment – maybe their application occasionally – but I’m positive about the whole situation.”

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