Premiership: Newcastle Falcons 17-34 Bristol Bears

By James LawBBC Sport
Bristol Bears celebrate a try
Ben Earl (right) made a mistake for Newcastle's opening try but more than made amends
Gallagher Premiership
Newcastle (10) 17
Tries: Young, Cooper Cons: Flood 2 Pens: Flood
Bristol (19) 34
Tries: Heenan, Malins 2, Morahan, Earl Cons: Lloyd 3 Pens: Lloyd

Premiership leaders Bristol took control after a tricky start to gain a bonus-point win at Newcastle and regain their 12-point lead at the top.

Michael Young's interception try helped Falcons to an early 10-0 lead despite Adam Brocklebank being sin-binned.

But Jake Heenan ran through, Max Malins dummied his way to score and Luke Morahan twisted in as Bristol replied.

The visitors went clear with tries from Ben Earl and Malins before Kyle Cooper's consolation score for Falcons.

Pat Lam's Bears are now unbeaten in their past eight Premiership matches, winning six in a row, while 10th-placed Newcastle are on a run of five successive defeats.

Bristol made nine changes from their European Champions Cup defeat by Bordeaux-Begles and were scrappy in the opening 20 minutes, Earl's no-look pass in his own 22 cut out by Young for a try after the hosts had Brocklebank yellow-carded for a shoulder charge into the back of Callum Sheedy.

Fly-half Sheedy was forced off after the incident but Bristol soon found their stride, Earl cutting inside, accelerating and playing a reverse pass for Heenan to score before Malins, on his first start of 2021, wrong-footed two defenders to go over.

Newcastle's Young then missed a tackle on Morahan to allow the table-toppers to hold a 19-10 half-time lead.

England back-row Earl took a lovely line on an inside angle for Bristol's fourth try and though Niyi Adeolokun was denied a score after a knock-on, Malins sprinted through for his second after a Falcons chip over the defensive line took an unfortunate bounce.

Bristol host second-placed Exeter at Ashton Gate on Friday.

Lam hails 'absolutely massive' result - reaction

Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards: "We weathered an early storm and found ourselves ahead but the three tries just before half-time were critical.

"It's the manner in which we conceded them that is the problem. We could have been in control in the tempo of the game but the ball was turned over too much - you can't afford to do that against a side like Bristol.

"We know our skill set wasn't good enough. The accuracy of phases wasn't there, theirs was far better and we have been punished.

"When we get things right, we look like a top team but there are certain things we aren't able to do right consistently. It's a very tight line between what we are doing well and what we need to work on."

Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam: "We blew an opportunity at the beginning and wanted to start well.

"It's not easy to come up here and we had an early opportunity to score but didn't take it. We then gave away a lot of penalties but to come up here and get five points in the context of this season is absolutely massive.

"The first 20 minutes wasn't what we are about and we lost a little bit of focus. After that, we showed what can do when we have our systems in place and understand the patterns that we have."

Newcastle: Penny; Vuna, Wacokecoke, Lucock, Stevenson; Flood, Young; Brocklebank, McGuigan, Mulipola, Peterson, Robinson, Welch, Wilson (capt), Chick.

Replacements: Blamire, Cooper, Ah You, Fuser, Van der Walt, Schreuder, Connon, Graham.

Bristol: Malins; Morahan, O'Conor, S Piutau (co-capt), Adeolokun; Sheedy, Uren; Y Thomas, Capon, Afoa, Joyce, Vui, Harding, Earl, Heenan (co-capt).

Replacements: Kloska, Woolmore, Lahiff, Holmes, D Thomas, Kessell, Lloyd, Leiua.

Referee: Christophe Ridley (RFU).