- Gallagher Premiership
- Saturday, May 18th 2019
- Kingston Park
Will Carpenter reports from Kingston Park
Report: Newcastle Falcons 12-19 Bristol Bears
Saturday, May 18th 2019
Bristol Bears signed off a captivating Gallagher Premiership season with a third away win of the campaign to seal a ninth-place finish and the highest points tally by a promoted side in 12 years.
Charles Piutau’s 10th-minute try was the only score of a first-half that saw Pat Lam’s men dominate possession and territory but take only a narrow advantage into the break.
Piers O’Conor and Jack Lam crossed early in the second period to fire Bristol into a 19-point lead and edge them within a score of a crucial bonus point at Kingston Park.
But Newcastle’s defence would not be breached again and instead it was the home side who finished with a flourish, scoring twice in the final five minutes through Gary Graham and Johnny Williams.
Alapati Leiua came close to an all-important fourth score as the clock entered the red, but the covering Adam Radwan halted the Samoan just short, and the curtain came down on the ninth league win of an impressive first season back in the top flight.
Piutau’s opener, after a formidable start from Bristol, was a wonderful balance of craft and brutality, as relentless forward pressure by the visitors gave Callum Sheedy and Siale Piutau the platform send the full back over with the most intricate of handling.
Piutau’s influence was a common theme throughout a fragmented first period, but Bristol were unable to apply the finishing touches to some quite glorious build-up play on their final outing of the season.
A smart inside ball from Chris Vui released the All Black flyer once again on the half hour mark, but after bursting clear, Piutau was unable to locate the supporting Luatua, with Sheedy also available on the inside.
Newcastle’s first real venture into Bears territory was launched by the electric Adam Radwan, bursting down the touchline with the visitors’ defence scrambling – but a trademark turnover from Dan Thomas ceased the Falcons’ charge and Bristol took a five-point lead at the interval.
That quickly became 12 points when the fleet-footed Piers O’Conor ghosted outside Toby Flood from a centre-field scrum to cruise in for Bristol’s second score on 46 minutes.
Sheedy converted, and when the third arrived eight minutes later courtesy of the departing Jack Lam, a bonus-point win looked to be on the cards.
Lam’s score followed another patient Bears’ attack, but they were unable to replicate it in the final quarter, albeit not without opportunity.
Gary Graham powered over from close range to get Falcons on the board five minutes from time, and Johnny Williams followed it up with a second four minutes later, to set up the unlikeliest of finales.
Leiua was cut down with the line at his mercy after neat work from replacement, Mat Protheroe had sent the wing clear – and that was the final meaningful act of a memorable season for Lam’s troops, whose league tally of 51 points matches that of Harlequins in 2006/07.
Teams and scorers:
Newcastle Falcons: Tries: Graham 75, Williams 79. Cons: Hodgson 75
Bristol Bears: Tries: C Piutau 10, O’Conor 46, Lam 54. Cons: Sheedy 46, Sheedy 54.
Newcastle Falcons: Tait, Kibirige, Harris, Williams, Radwan, Hodgson, Young (c); Lockwood, McGuigan, Mulipola, Green, Robinson, Chick, Graham, Nagusa. Replacements: Socino, Davison, Wilson, Olmstead, Blamire, Stuart, Flood, Matavesi.
Bristol Bears: C Piutau (Protheroe 65); Daniels, O’Conor, S Piutau, Leiua; Sheedy (cc) (Pisi 65), Randall (Stirzaker 58); Lay (Woolmore 54), Thacker (Thiede 69), Afoa (Kloska 70), Holmes, Vui, Luatua (cc), D Thomas (Smith 57), Haining (Lam 40). Replacements: Kloska, Woolmore, Thiede, Lam, Smith, Stirzaker, Pisi, Protheroe.
Bristol Bears dominated the opening 40 minutes at Kingston Park, but were unable to add to Charles Piutau's 10th-minute try.
But they fixed that early in the second period courtesy of a fine score from Piers O'Conor, ghosting through the Falcons midfield to touch down.
Man of the match: Charles Piutau
Charles Piutau was almost unstoppable at Kingston Park, scoring the first try and assisting the second to cap another sensational display from the All Black.
It makes it six tries in 11 Gallagher Premiership appearances this season for Piutau. An impressive return.
Photo of the match:
Best of social media:
- Williams, Graham
- Yellow Cards:
- Piutau, O'Conor, Lam
- Sheedy (2)
- Yellow Cards: