Bath edge closer to Premiership play-offs as Russell returns

Winning return: Bath and Scotland fly-half Finn Russell enjoyed a successful comeback from injury against <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Newcastle;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Newcastle</a> (FRANCK FIFE)

Bath moved nearer to a place in the English Premiership rugby play-offs with a 28-17 win away to basement club Newcastle on Friday.

The visitors had a bonus-point secured before half-time at Kingston Park thanks to tries from Thomas du Toit, Ben Spencer, Joe Cokanasiga and Matt Gallagher.

Scotland fly-half Finn Russell, making his first Bath start since suffering a groin injury in a European Champions Cup defeat by Exeter last month, converted all four scores.

Jamie Blamire crossed twice for Newcastle to leave Bath 27-10 ahead at the break.

And although Sam Stuart narrowed the gap yet further for Newcastle with a try after half-time, that was as good as it got for the Falcons as they suffered a 17th defeat in as many Premiership matches this season.

Victory left Bath, who have one match left to play in the regular season, in second place with the top four qualifying for the title-deciding play-offs.

Sale also remained in play-off contention with a 31-22 bonus-point win at home to Leicester on Friday that left them third ahead of this weekend's remaining Premiership games.

Gus Warr, Tommy Taylor, Sam James and Tom O'Flaherty all scored tries for Sale, last season's runners-up, on a day when director of rugby Alex Sanderson signed a new three-year contract with the northwest club.

Leicester took an early lead through a rare try from veteran England prop Dan Cole, with Matt Scott also going over for the Tigers in the first half before George Martin crossed late on.

Sale, who started this round in sixth place, will now travel to reigning champions Saracens on the final day of the regular season next weekend likely needing another win to secure a top-four finish.