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Bristol survive raft of setbacks to see off Newcastle at Ashton Gate

By PA
(Photo by PA)

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Bristol survived a whole host of setbacks to win a frenetic game featuring seven tries 37-21 as Newcastle lost at Ashton Gate.

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First they had to deal with the early loss of key backs Andy Uren and Luke Morahan to injuries before overcoming the handicap of losing three forwards to the sin bin to pick up their bonus-point victory.

At one stage, Newcastle trailed 28-7 and looked set for a heavy defeat but a spirited response from their powerful forwards saw them emerge with credit – Bristol had to kick three second-half penalties to keep their noses in front.

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Bristol’s tries came from Uren, Siva Naulago, Morahan and Alapati Leiua, with Tom Whiteley adding four conversions and three penalties.

Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti and Nathan Earle scored tries for Newcastle, both of which Will Haydon-Wood converted, while there was also a penalty try award.

It took Bristol just over three minutes to open the scoring. Neat footwork from Piers O’Conor saw him carve a huge hole in the visitors’ defence before sending Uren away on a 25-metre run to the line.

Moments later, however, Uren departed with an injury and was replaced by Tiff Eden, with Whiteley switching from fly-half to his customary scrum-half role.

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The Bears soon overcame this setback to score their second try. Following swift passing from the three-quarters, Morahan chipped ahead for Naulago to nip in front of a hesitant Earle to collect and score.

The home side nearly had a third when Dan Thomas charged down a clearance from Haydon-Wood. The flanker looked a certain scorer but the ball bounced awkwardly and Haydon-Wood was fortunate to race back and recover his error.

Newcastle’s miserable start continued when scrum-half Sam Stuart limped off before Bristol broke away from inside their 22, with a pass from Thomas giving Morahan the chance to easily evade Haydon-Wood on a 40-metre run.

Morahan then left the field with a leg injury before Newcastle came onto the scoreboard when Whiteley was careless in dealing with a kick ahead which allowed Nordli-Kelemiti to follow up and score.

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Bristol rallied to collect their bonus-point try before the half-hour mark had elapsed, with replacement Leiua strolling through some weak tackling to touch down.

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Despite the scoreline, Bristol continued to be on the wrong side of the referee and just before half-time both their locks, Dave Attwood and Joe Joyce, were sin-binned for collapsing mauls, with Falcons picking up a penalty try to leave them trailing 28-14 at the interval.

Three minutes after the restart, Whiteley made a sharp break to threaten the try-line before Mike Brown was sin-binned for a deliberate offside to leave the former to kick the resulting penalty.

All three players returned from the sin bin in time to see the visitors collect the next score when elusive running from Adam Radwan provided Earle with a walk-in before Whiteley kicked his second penalty.

Steven Luatua became the third Bristol player to be yellow-carded for dragging down a line-out drive, but once again the Falcons could not capitalise and another penalty from Whiteley rubber-stamped the victory.

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