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Pat Lam on Virimi Vakatawa: 'class is permanent'

By PA
(Photo by Patrick Khachfe/Getty Images)

Bristol boss Pat Lam hailed the returning Virimi Vakatawa’s contribution as his side outmuscled Newcastle 21-13.

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Having suffered 11 defeats in a row, Falcons raised their game for the visit of the Bears and were well in the contest at 7-6 down in the second half.

But Vakatawa’s try helped the visitors pull away and Lam spoke effusively about the Fijian-born star, who has come out of retirement to feature in the Premiership.

The France international was forced to step away from the game last year after medics at French giants Racing 92 refused to let him play due to a heart anomaly.

“The saying is ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’, and he is a class player,” said Lam.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with his head, I think he’s had a year off the game and I don’t think many rugby players would come back off that and come straight back into it.

“But he’s shown signs every game [that] he’s getting better and better and having last week off, he got more done.

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“The trainers said he’s more comfortable with the guys, with the way that we play, and he was really, really good tonight.”

This was Bristol’s fourth win of a stop-start campaign thus far that has also seen them beaten five times.

“The number one thing we’ve done is grown as a group,” said Lam. “The resilience and the toughness the boys have got – at 7-6 that game could have gone either way and that’s exactly what we got two years ago.”

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Newcastle’s long wait for a victory continues but director of rugby Alex Codling stressed the positives from a battling performance.

“We spoke all week about the breakdown opportunities and I thought the boys were fantastic and there are so many positives,” said Codling.

“I admire their courage, their tenacity, their relentlessness, their resilience. They never give up, even in the first half, to a man, they stood firm.

“The difficulty when you’re under pressure and not on a winning run is that the confidence is probably not quite as high as everyone else’s.

“I always want the boys to move the ball, [which] was a lot harder in the second half with the rain so I’m not going to criticise the players – we’ve just got to work harder on our basic skills because it does chop our momentum.

“It is tough to get back when you lose at this level [but] to a man, I thought the spirit was outstanding.”

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