Newcastle Falcons joined the list of scalps taken at the Memorial Stadium on Sunday, as hosts Bristol ran out winners.Leading 13-7 at the break, Bristol mastered the wind and battled at the breakdown to grind out a physical victory, with Samoan wing David Lemi a late inclusion to their side grabbing both of their tries on the day.
While the second of those scores emanated from what looked like a highly dubious forward pass, by that stage the West Country side were 16-7 to the good and fighting at the breakdown for every single scrap of possession to starve the Newcastle supply lines.
Bristol, with the wind at their backs in the opening half, applied early pressure when wing Lee Robinson was held up over the try line by some last-ditch Newcastle defence from a fleeting counter attack and chip down the right wing.
Falcons skipper Colin Charvis nipped another Bristol attack in the bud with a vital turnover on his own line, but it was only nine minutes in to proceedings when the diminutive Lemi popped up for his opening try down the left, fly half Jason Strange holding the defence and firing the ball wide to create the score.
Strange converted from the left touchline to extend the lead, while Joe Shaw held his nerve under a swirling high ball as Bristol looked to exploit the blowy conditions.
The visitors' persistence paid off just before the half hour when referee Chris White played advantage in the Bristol 22 and the Falcons recycled through a number of tight phases before the ball was worked right to fullback Matthew Burke who cruised over from short range, Toby Flood adding the conversion.
It was Burke, however, holding on in a ruck three minutes later which allowed the hosts to take their lead to six points as Strange nudged over an elementary penalty, while England centre Jamie Noon almost threw an interception pass to the feisty Lemi in midfield with nobody at home.
With Andy Perry off with a shoulder injury Owen Finegan was forcd in to the second row, while a bout of fisticuffs from Shaw and Robinson was the only highlight of the closing minutes as the half time whistle eventually came.
The second period saw the Falcons don their maroon third kit at the behest of referee Chris White due to perceived colour clashes, but despite playing with the wind at their backs it was Newcastle who were forced on to the defensive as Burke produced a try-saving tackle on scrum half Shaun Perry near his own line.
Flood maximised the elements to boom a punt in excess of 60 metres, while Finegan's chargedown of a hurried Bristol clearance behind their own try line was just millimetres short of producing a try as Robinson's toe got to the loose ball first and hacked dead.
Burke, too, used the wind to clear his lines well, but the hosts were not punished with tactical kicking on a regular basis, and actually scored the first points of the half 12 minutes in when Strange dinked over a penalty from in front on the 22 for not releasing.
But it was just before the half hour mark when the controversial and potentially decisive score came, a midfield Bristol ruck seeing the ball flung wide, with Sam Cox batting it forward to the onrushing Lemi, but referee White somehow missing the offence as the Samoan dived over in the corner to the astonishment of the Falcons players and bench alike.
To rub salt in the wound Strange stepped up and defied the wind to send over a touchline conversion in what was ultimately the last score of the day.
The final quarter petered out in unspectacular style, with the Falcons pressing hard through replacement Ben Woods' penetrating runs, but denied continuity by a Bristol back row at the top of its game in slowing down ball and hitting the breakdown time after time.
An imaginative crossfield kick from Flood on half way almost provided a spark of excitement as recipient Tom May chipped the last man and hacked ahead, only for Robinson to scurry back and deny Anthony Elliott the chance to dive on the loose ball over the line for the try.
With no pace on the game in the dying embers neither side looked like breaching the try line, and sure enough that was to be the case as the final whistle eventually sounded on a disappointing foray in to West Country territory for the Falcons.
Tries: Lemi 2
Cons: Strange 2
Pens: Strange 3
15 Vaughan Going
14 Lee Robinson's
13 Rob Higgitt
12 Sam Cox
11 David Lemi
10 Jason Strange
9 Shaun Perry
1 Dave Hilton
2 Mark Regan
3 Darren Crompton
4 Nathan Budgett (Roy Winters, 46)
5 Gareth Llewellyn
6 Matt Salter (captain)
7 Joe El Abd (Geraint Lewis, 73)
8 Dan Ward-Smith
15 Matthew Burke
14 Tom May
13 Jamie Noon
12 Mark Mayerhofler
11 Joe Shaw (Anthony Elliott, 71)
10 Toby Flood
9 Hall Charlton (James Grindal, 52)
1 Micky Ward (Jonny Williams, 63)
2 Andy Long
3 Robbie Morris
4 Andy Perry (Owen Finegan, 29)
5 Andy Buist
6 Mike McCarthy
7 Cory Harris (Ben Woods, 56)
8 Colin Charvis (captain)
Referee: Chris White