Match Report

Newcastle Falcons - 13

Bristol Bears - 21

Friday 22nd Dec 2023 | KO 19:45 | Kingston Park

Newcastle Falcons’ wait for a first victory of the Gallagher Premiership season continues after Bristol Bears ground out the result in Friday’s pre-Christmas tussle at Kingston Park.

The hosts trailed 7-3 at the interval and had been handed a reprieve as early the first minute when Bristol fly-half Callum Sheedy missed a penalty from in front of the South Stand posts.

It took a try-saving tackle from returning wing Mateo Carreras to deny Rich Lane a score in the left corner, but the pressure finally told on 18 minutes when Harry Thacker scored from a maul which crabbed its way infield.

Sheedy added the simple conversion, but the Falcons were playing a full part in the game and produced a line-break from Jamie Blamire from inside their own half, only for play to be knocked on at the next breakdown.

The Bears kicked another two penalties to the left corner without return as Newcastle’s defence fronted up, and despite being under the cosh for much of the opening 40 it was the hosts who finished the first half the stronger.

Camping themselves in the Bristol 22, their multi-phase attack was illegally halted and Louie Johnson slotted a simple three from in front of the posts with the resulting penalty.

That cut Bristol’s half-time lead to 7-3, and the momentum continued after the break when Johnson bit off a big chunk of territory with a 50-22 into the left corner.

The Bears’ defensive line-out held firm on that occasion, but Newcastle cut the deficit to a single point on 48 minutes when replacement fly-half Rory Jennings drilled over a 40-metre penalty just a minute after entering the field.

Blamire earned a crucial jackal penalty in front of his own posts to thwart a Bears attack, and replacements Hugh O’Sullivan and George Wacokecoke added further impetus when the former tapped a quick penalty and the latter supported his line-break.

A shuddering tackle from Pedro Rubiolo got Kingston Park rocking as they entered the closing 15 minutes just a point behind their visitors, but Bristol replied in clinical fashion when France centre Virimi Vakatawa showed his renowned power game to score down the right-hand side.

Sheedy added the conversion to put his side eight points to the good, and there was further distance added when Gabriel Oghre scored their third converted try from a maul in the right corner four minutes from the end.

Kiran McDonald crashed over for a consolation try with the last play as Newcastle showed some late fight, but the result by this stage was already beyond them.

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Penny, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Oliver Spencer (George Wacokecoke, 61), 12 Jordan Holgate, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Louie Johnson (Rory Jennings, 47), 9 James Elliott (Hugh O’Sullivan, 47); 1 Phil Brantingham (Adam Brocklebank, 58), 2 Jamie Blamire (Bryan Byrne, 68), 3 Eduardo Bello (Murray McCallum, 68), 4 John Hawkins (Kiran McDonald, 65), 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 6 Sam Cross (Pedro Rubiolo, 40), 7 Guy Pepper, 8 Callum Chick (captain).

Scorers – Tries: Kiran McDonald. Conversions: Rory Jennings. Penalties: Louie Johnson, Rory Jennings.

Bristol Bears: 15 Max Malins, 14 Gabriel Ibitoye (Noah Heward, 67), 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 11 Rich Lane, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Harry Randall; 1 Jake Woolmore (Max Lahiff, 44), 2 Harry Thacker (Gabriel Oghre, 39), 3 Kyle Sinckler (George Kloska, 60), 4 James Dun, 5 Joe Batley, 6 Steven Luatua, 7 Fitz Harding (captain), 8 Magnus Bradbury (Paddy Pearce, 67).

Scorers – Tries: Harry Thacker, Virimi Vakatawa, Gabriel Oghre. Conversions: Callum Sheedy 3.

Referee: Anthony Woodthorpe. Attendance: 6,104.