Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards insists he never lost faith in his side as they overcame an impressive second-half performance from Bristol Rugby to seal a slender victory.
The Falcons dominated proceedings from the off at Kingston Park, and scored their first try of the game just four minutes after kick-off through Juan Pablo Socino, who latched onto a handling error to put the ball over the line in the corner.
Further tries from skipper Will Welch and Joel Hodgson ensured the Falcons went into the interval in full control, with Bristol showing no sign of reply.
But they awoke from their slumber in style in the second half, scoring two tries in quick succession through Jon Fisher and Mitch Eadie, but it wasn’t enough as the Falcons held on to move into sixth in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.
And while Richards admits it wasn’t as convincing a result as he wanted, he was quick to pay tribute to the Falcons’ opening half performance.
“If you’d asked me 15 minutes before kick-off would I take a 19-14 win, the answer would have been yes, but I’m sitting here now slightly frustrated and so is the team,” he said.
“We’re in the top half of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table with three wins and a couple of losing bonus points, but we do have a lot of injuries to key players and were a little frustrated rather than happy.
“We played so well in the first half and could have scored two or three more tries and we could have done with those in the second half because we took our foot off the gas.
“They had two chances and took them both and our kicking went off a little and that was probably the root cause of the problem. I never thought we would ever lose but we could well have thrown it away.”
In the Bristol camp, Andy Robinson was left thrilled with the grit and determination shown by his side in the second half, but admits he was disappointed they didn’t clinch a last-gasp victory.
Prior to Saturday’s tie, Bristol had won nine of their last 13 meetings with the Falcons, but although Bristol remain languishing at the foot of the table with just two points heading into the European break, Robinson insists their performance on Tyneside shows the Aviva Premiership is where they belong.
“I thought we started reasonably well but we lost our discipline and it was a bit of an own goal when Newcastle scored their first try and that gave them the momentum,” he said.
“In the second half, we started to get up off the line, made our tackles and gained momentum. We scored two really good tries but unfortunately just could not keep that momentum going.
“That second half was pleasing in that it proved we do have the talent to succeed in the Aviva Premiership.
“We did some good things here today and in the opening game of the season, but we wanted at least one win from the first six games of the season and we’re frustrated we haven’t done that.”