Newcastle Falcons withheld an immense second-half comeback from Bristol Rugby to grasp their third victory of the Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign following early domination.
Juan Pablo Socino’s early try got the Falcons off to a flyer, as they dictated first-half proceedings with Will Welch and Joel Hodgson also crossing the Kingston Park whitewash before the interval.
Bristol – who had defeated Newcastle in nine of the last 13 meetings between the sides – struggled to capitalise on their opportunities, missing two penalties in the first period, but woke up from their slumber with two tries in quick succession after the break from Jon Fisher and Mitch Eadie to narrow the gap.
A spree of second-half penalties could have put the tie to bed for the Falcons, but they withheld sustained Bristol pressure to claim a victory that could have gone either way in the latter stages.
Socino broke the deadlock for the Falcons when he latched onto a handling error in the Bristol backline before putting the ball down in the corner to give Newcastle the early advantage.
The visitors had an opportunity to get themselves immediately on the board when Will Hurrell forced the turnover, only for Jordan Williams’ penalty effort to ricochet off the woodwork.
It proved to be a missed chance they immediately came to rue as Falcons skipper Welch barged over the line from close range after swift play from the hosts, with Mike Delany coolly converting to make it 12-0.
Adrian Jarvis had an opportunity to reduce the deficit just before the half-hour mark when Bristol won a penalty at the scrum, but the fly-half steered his effort wide of the sticks, much to the dismay of the travelling supporters.
But the Falcons weren’t willing to sit back and relax ahead of half-time following their early dominance, boosting their advantage with less than ten minutes to play until the interval.
A close-range scrum led to the ball finding opening tryscorer Socino, who fed through to Hodgson to go through two defenders and cross over the whitewash, before Delany doubled his tally with the conversion to give the Falcons a 19-0 advantage at the break.
Andy Robinson’s half-time talk seemed to have done the trick in reviving his deflated Bristol side, the visitors enjoying the lion’s share of possession and showing the early initiative.
They finally got their first points on the board through replacement Jon Fisher, who crashed down from close range just minutes after stepping onto the turf, with Jarvis making no mistake from the tee this time to bury the conversion.
And Bristol’s second-half revival appeared to unsettle the Falcons, as Delany missed a 57-minute penalty which would have provided the hosts with more breathing space heading into the final quarter of the game.
It was an opportunity the visitors capitalised on as they notched their second try of the game on 63 minutes, Eadie spotting the gap in the Falcons defence to put the ball down after fine work from Fisher in the lead-up.
Jarvis duly converted and the Bristol comeback was well and truly alive, the gap at just five points with just over 15 minutes remaining.
Another penalty drifted wide of the upright for the hosts as the clock ticked over the 70-minute mark, this time with Hodgson at the tee.
Frustrations started to bubble away as the half went off, tempers flaring with just minutes remaining as Alex Rogers and Gaston Cortes were both sent to the sin bin.
And it was from the sidelines that they watched the remainder of this nailbiting clash as Dean Richards’ men held on for their first win on home soil since the opening day of the season.