They may lack some of the cohesion which is already evident at Bath and London Irish, but Bristol are short of little by way of bulk or experience.
It also helps to be a lucky team. With only four minutes remaining, Bristol were 37-20 ahead and coasting to victory, having been gifted three soft tries by Newcastle in a fluid, fluctuating match at Kingston Park, where the lead changed hands four times before the break.
Without the benefit of those three slices of good fortune that brought an interception try for Luke Nabaro, which the winger followed up with a second when Tony Underwood and Stuart Legg made a hash of clearing a bouncing ball on their own line, Bristol would have been obliged to work much harder for victory.
They led 20-13 at the interval, Newcastle responding positively to the disappointment of presenting Bristol with 12 of those points, when Hugh Vyvyan scored a sparkling try. But the Bristol pack drove across in injury time for Barry Williams to score their third try and the signs were ominous for Newcastle, who were under constant threat from the bigger Bristol forwards.
Even so, Newcastle were determined to run everything from everywhere. Immediately on the restart, a try looked on as Peter Walton headed for the posts. But his flip pass was intercepted by Steve Vile, who scored at the other end. Underwood replied in kind by snatching Craig McMullen's pass out of thin air. Legg converted and Newcastle were back in business at 20-25. Despite late tries by Underwood and Micky Ward, Adam Vander and Spencer Brown made it safe for Bristol. But only just.
Newcastle; Tries Vyvyan, Underwood 2, Ward; Conversion Legg 3; Penalty Legg; Dropped Goal Walder. Bristol; Tries Nabaro 2, Williams, Vile, Brown, Vander; Conversions Vile, Back; Penalty Vile.
Newcastle: S Legg; J Naylor, M Shaw, T May (J Noon 68), T Underwood; D Walder, A Chilten (H Charlton 64); I Peel (M Ward 67), R Horton, M Hurter, J Rule, H Vyvyan (H Quigley 64), S O'Neil ((J Cartmell h-t), R Arnold (capt), P Walton.
Bristol: M Back; L Nabaro, F Bunce, C McMullen, S Brown; S Vile (P Whittaker 47), G Baber; A Sharp (P Johnstone 67), B Williams, D Crompton, S Morgan, O Booyse (A Brown 64), C Evans (J Brownrigg 44), A Vander, D Ryan (capt).
Referee: N Yates (Bowdon, Cheshire).Reuse content