Bristol’s hopes of avoiding relegation suffered a major dent on Friday as defeat to drop rivals Newcastle left them nine points adrift at the foot of the table.
Newcastle moved above Worcester and Wasps, for now at least, as they recorded their first GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP win on the road since December 2007, collecting a bonus point in the process.
Both sides had played down the game being a relegation decider but behind the scenes it was a different picture, Bristol head coach Richard Hill taking the squad and a number of supporters out for a meal on Tuesday. Hill wanted the players to hear first-hand from supporters how important the match was to them, and this was followed by two former SAS officers attending a training session to explain how they dealt with difficult situations.
Newcastle were denied an early lead when wing Danny Williams went over the line but the final pass from centre Tane Tu’ipulotu was judged to have been forward. But a couple of minutes later Bristol were penalised in the scrum and fly-half Tom May kicked the resulting penalty.
After a brief foray into the Falcons half, the home side were quickly on the back foot and lock Geoff Parling went over from close range. May added the conversion and a penalty a couple of minutes later before Bristol finally got on the scoreboard with a penalty from fly-half Ed Barnes with 15 minutes on the clock.
On the half hour May kicked his third penalty from just outside the 22 but Barnes was wide with a touchline penalty attempt five minutes before the break to leave the Falcons leading 16-3.
Bristol, who appeared to lack confidence in the opening 40 minutes, started the second period strongly but wasted the first opportunity to reduce the arrears as Barnes was wide with a relatively simply penalty. May was off target with his next penalty attempt from 35 metres but the visitors regained their grip on the game with openside flanker Ed Williamson breaking down the right touchline to score their second try.
The Falcons rubbed more salt into Bristol wounds with an excellent blindside move down the right touchline with replacement number eight Brent Wilson, who had been on the pitch for less than five minutes, getting the try with May adding the extras.
With less than 10 minutes left the Falcons secured a bonus-point try through replacement lock Andy Perry, May adding the conversion.