Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Misery for Falcons as Bristol Kick Late Winner

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Misery for Falcons as Bristol Kick Late Winner

Article excerpt

Byline: By Andrew Baldock

Newcastle suffered a last-gasp heartbreak against Guinness Premiership title contenders Bristol just when it looked as though they had successfully overcome the absence of England star Jonny Wilkinson, writes Andrew Baldock.

The Falcons threatened to tear up the form guide by leading for much of a typically-attritional encounter at the Memorial Ground.

But Bristol had just enough left to inflict punishing pressure on Newcastle's scrum after flanker Ben Woods had been sin-binned during the final minute of normal time, and referee Andy Small awarded a penalty try.

Substitute fly-half Jason Strange slotted the match-winning conversion, and Bristol hung on to retain second place, one point behind Leicester.

It was rough justice on John Fletcher's visitors, though, as they belied their pre-match league position ( eight places and 22 points behind Bristol ( to compete vigorously throughout.

While England star Wilkinson recovered from what the Falcons termed "bumps, bruises and strains" following successive RBS 6 Nations appearances against Scotland and Italy, his red rose colleagues Toby Flood and Mathew Tait took centre stage.

Flood ran the show with a high-class display in Wilkinson's number 10 shirt, while centre Tait ( who will be alongside Flood on England bench duty against Ireland at Croke Park on Saturday ( scored an exquisite try.

Tait's midfield partner Jamie Noon also touched down, with Flood landing three penalties and a conversion. But Bristol's kickers came up trumps, with Strange booting eight points and David Hill slotting three penalties.

Newcastle, who had recorded a solitary Premiership away win all season, suffered a setback when number eight Russell Winter was sin-binned after three minutes for use of the boot at the first ruck.

Hill kicked the resulting penalty for Bristol, but it proved a short-lived advantage as Flood landed an equalising penalty before Newcastle conjured a superb 50-metre try.

Wing John Rudd smashed through two Bristol tackles, before supporting lock Mark Sorenson delivered a one-handed pass to Tait, who finished.

The score confirmed Newcastle's reputation as a gifted attacking side, yet their much-maligned pack also relished the battle, with South African Winter and New Zealander Sorenson keeping Bristol at bay. Hill and Flood exchanged further penalties, but the first half proved forgettable for Bristol as they were disrupted by losing three players to injuries. …

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