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Premiership: Bristol Bears beat Newcastle to end Falcons’ perfect league start

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Charles Piutau scores Bristol's second try against Newcastle
Charles Piutau powered over for Bristol’s second try in a manic first half
Bristol (14) 29
Tries: Naulago, Piutau, Hughes, Kloska Cons: Sheedy 3 Pen: Sheedy
Newcastle Falcons (10) 17
Tries: Wacokecoke, Wilson, van der Walt Con: Flood

Bristol Bears held off Newcastle’s gutsy challenge to end the Falcons’ 100% start to the Premiership season.

Ratu Naulago’s first-minute score was cancelled out by George Wacokecoke and, after Charles Piutau powered over for Bristol, Mark Wilson crossed to cut the Bears’ half-time lead to 14-10.

Bristol’s Nathan Hughes and Newcastle’s Philip van der Walt both touched down.

But George Kloska added Bristol’s fourth try and they closed out victory to go above Falcons and up to second.

Bristol, who go level on points with leaders Exeter thanks to their bonus-point victory, just about kept their visitors at arm’s length in a pulsating New Year’s Day match at Ashton Gate.

Falcons had the greater control up front against an inexperienced Bristol side who were without six self-isolating front rowers because of Covid-19 so gave debuts to Kloska, Jake Armstrong and Peter McCabe.

But they will rue a number of wasted scoring opportunities when camped on the try-line.

Naulago’s score came after just 43 seconds, the winger crossing after Callum Sheedy had intercepted a loose pass and streaked away from inside his own half.

Wacokecoke’s elusive run following great work by Toby Flood saw the centre go over for his first Premiership try only for Piutau to then score after gathering a bouncing ball.

Fit-again skipper Wilson grabbed Newcastle’s second score with Dave Attwood in the sin-bin as they looked to make it four wins from four league games.

However, Hughes finished off a clever line-out move to extend Bristol’s lead within three minutes of the restart, and the introduction of Lions prop Kyle Sinckler helped the hosts gain greater control in the forward pack.

The scoring pattern continued again with a try apiece for Hughes and van der Walt

And although a forward pass deprived Hughes of a second Bristol try after a wonderful team move, debutant Kloska’s score and a late Sheedy penalty sealed Bristol’s fourth league win from five games this season.

Bristol Bears director of rugby Pat Lam: “It’s been a challenge, but I’m really pleased. I have to give a massive credit to Peter McCabe, George and Jake Armstrong. They put a shift in for the team.

“Kyle came in late on so the game could go ahead and he showed his class. I can’t speak highly enough of him.

“He was supposed to be on a break, but he came in as we needed a front row. We’ve got things to fix and we need to because our next game is Exeter.”

Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards: “Over the last few weeks we have lost several players to injury who are the spine of the team.

“When you go into a game like this against a tough team like Bristol, it has an impact. I thought the boys who came in did well – we just needed more accuracy.

“We have won five from seven this season and we are all about showing what we can do.

“You have to take your opportunities and that comes down to accuracy, but we’ve got a good pack and a back-line which can score tries.”

Bristol: Piutau; Naulago, Radradra, O’Conor, Lloyd; Sheedy, Uren; McCabe, Kloska, Armstrong, Attwood, Joyce, Luatua (capt), Heenan, Hughes.

Replacements: Thompson, Turner, Sinckler, Hawkins, Harding, Randall, Leiua, Morahan.

Newcastle: Arscott; Radwan, Wacokecoke, Orlando, Stevenson; Flood, Stuart; Davison, Blamire, Mulipola, Peterson, Fuser, Robinson, Wilson (capt), van der Walt.

Replacements: Maddison, Cooper, Tampin, Collett, Basham, Schreuder, Connon, Owen.

Referee: Christophe Ridley.

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