Newcastle Falcons secured eighth place in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table thanks to a 39-27 win over Bristol Rugby at Ashton Gate to finish the season.
Needing to win, and defeats for both Gloucester Rugby and Northampton Saints, Newcastle were provisionally in seventh until a late try for Northampton saw them drop down a spot.
That means they missed out on a Champions Cup play-off place, but this was still a promising display, with Vereniki Goneva scoring two tries, and it could have been a hat-trick but for some late generosity.
Falcons scored five tries in all, while Bristol managed four of their own in their final game of the campaign.
Newcastle made a flying start with some quick feet from Chris Harris creating a gap and Mark Wilson then showed the pace to streak over from the 22. Sonatane Takulua converted to make it 7-0 with just four minutes gone.
Bristol were under the cosh early on but almost came back with a try of their own after a break from Jason Woodward, but he was forced into touch by a great tackle from Marcus Watson as he tried to pass inside.
Instead it was Falcons who extended their lead, Takulua knocking over a penalty following a powerful scrum to make it 10-0.
With the possibility of a European play-off place still at stake, Newcastle meant business, and they extended their lead when Goneva picked the ball up from a ruck and raced over unopposed.
Bristol weren’t helping themselves, one fine break from Billy Searle ending in a penalty as Alby Mathewson was penalised for crossing. He protested the decision, and was marched back ten further yards allowing Takulua to slot a second penalty of the afternoon, pushing the lead to 18-0.
Gavin Henson got Bristol on the board on the stroke of half-time, knocking over a penalty with the final kick of the half.
But Newcastle extended their lead early in the second half, Juan Pablo Socino and Watson combining on a scissors to put the latter clean through and he then produced a delightful sidestep to get over the line. Takulua’s conversion made it 25-3.
— Bristol Rugby (@Bristol_RFC) May 6, 2017
However Bristol were much-improved in the second half and replacement Jamal Ford-Robinson got over soon after for their first try of the afternoon. With Henson off, Woodward converted to cut the deficit to 15.
But just as it looked like they might get back into it, putting Falcons under real pressure, Goneva picked off a pass and raced the length of the pitch to wrap up the bonus point.
— Andy Goode (@AndyGoode10) May 6, 2017
Bristol came straight back, with a try from another prop, Jack O’Connell on hand following a half-break from Tusi Pisi. Woodward converted once more.
Goneva pounced on another loose ball late on with what looked set to be a hat-trick score, but after racing over the line he gave the ball to Harris for the try.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) May 6, 2017
Bristol had the final say however, with late tries from Jack Tovey and then the departing Mitch Eadie to finish with a flourish, albeit in a losing cause.
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