A week of turmoil for Newcastle ended in a demoralising home defeat by Bristol in the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP.
It was comfortably the Falcons’ worst performance of the season and came hot on the heels of the departure of director of rugby John Fletcher by mutual consent in midweek.
It took Bristol all of 90 seconds to open the scoring as Newcastle were exposed twice on the blindside, the second time after they lost their own line-out on halfway.
Shaun Perry darted clear and, with no-one covering, Scott Linklater stepped inside Tom May for a try converted by Ed Barnes.
Newcastle should have scored when John Rudd took May’s overhead pass and brushed off two tackles on the left-hand touchline but Tim Visser just failed to hold his inside pass five metres out.
Perry was causing Newcastle all sorts of problems and he broke out of the Bristol 22 and Linklater very nearly benefited again before being caught on halfway by the Falcons cover.
Too many turnovers were also hurting Newcastle and Bristol went close again when Matt Thompson coughed the ball up on the 10-metre line.
Two penalties followed, the second for some footwork by Mark Sorenson and while Newcastle did well to drive Bristol back from the first line-out drive, the second was a different matter.
Joe El Abd broke off the back and scored and Barnes added a second conversion to make it 14-0.
Newcastle skipper Phil Dowson and Linklater were both sinbinned for fighting in the 33rd minute and were lucky not to be sent off given the number of punches they threw before Barnes kicked a long-range penalty.
The lack of an established kicker was costing Newcastle yards when they were kicking for touch but it did not really matter because their line-out was also a mess.
They lost five of them on their own throw and it was no surprise they trailed 17-0 at half-time and it could have been worse with Barnes missing simple kick at goal just before the break.
Newcastle finally got themselves into the game when May snapped up a loose ball on his own 10-metre line and surged through, stepping inside Tom Arscott’s cover tackle and to send Rob Miller over.
Miller missed the conversion but kicked a penalty soon afterwards, as did Barnes to make it 20-8.
When Newcastle then failed to come away with anything from five successive scrums on the Bristol five-metre line, the game looked over.
That was confirmed when Barnes kicked his third penalty with 10 minutes left and Visser’s awful pass was intercepted by Anthony Elliott for a try in the corner in the 76th minute.