Bristol recorded back-to-back UINNESS PREMIERSHIP home victories as a dominant forward display saw off Newcastle.
Johnny Wilkinson may have kicked England into next Saturday’s World Cup final with a penalty and a perfectly-struck drop goal but his club will be hoping he can turn their fortunes around, after yet another disappointing away day.
Bristol, with just one win from their opening four GUINESS PREMIERSHIP matches, made a number of changes from the side that lost at Harlequins, Jason Strange given his first GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP start of the season, meaning David Hill moved to inside centre in place of Sam Cox.
Newcastle skipper Phil Dowson was sidelined with a shoulder injury so Brent Wilson deputised at openside flanker, with New Zealand prop Joe McDonnell leading the Falcons.
Bristol put themselves under early pressure, with hooker Scott Linklater unable to throw the ball in straight at two attacking line-outs and full-back Josh Taumalolo knocking on inside his own 22 attempting to take a hospital pass from Dan Ward-Smith.
The home side finally were able to find the gaps in the Falcons defence after 15 minutes when skipper Matt Salter put through Samoa international Alfie To’oala, who powered over the line from 20 metres out.
Strange added the simple conversion, followed a couple of minutes later by a 25-metre angled penalty.
The Falcons got their first points on the board with a kick from Australia full-back Matt Burke from just inside the Bristol half.
The home side felt that they were the stronger in the set pieces and opted for a scrum when awarded a free-kick on the Falcons 22.
They worked the ball across field both ways through several phases of play until the visitors were awarded a scrum.
But this time it led to Bristol’s second try when scrum-half Brian O’Riordan picked up at the side of a ruck to go over the line, with Strange again adding the extras.
The Falcons were quickly back into the Bristol half and attempting to break the home defence.
Bristol were caught going over the top at the ruck and Burke stepped-up to kick a second penalty from 30 metres but it was Bristol who went in to the interval with a 17-6 lead to their credit.
The visitors started the stronger in the second half but Bristol’s defence stood firm and countered quickly.
Strange slotted his second penalty between the uprights but Burke’s attempt to cancel it out with a long-range penalty attempt drifted wide of the posts but found his target a couple of minutes later from slightly closer.
Burke then squeezed in to the corner for Newcastle’s only try of the game despite the attempts of wing Tom Arscott and replacement hooker David Blaney.
Burke added the conversion from the touchline to set-up an exciting final quarter.
But the only addition to the score was a Strange penalty five minutes from time to seal the game for Bristol.