Newcastle Falcons ended the Aviva Premiership regular season by recording their tenth victory, their biggest number of league wins for 15 years, as they recorded a maximum haul at relegated Bristol.
Vereniki Goneva’s two tries played an instrumental part in a convincing away victory, their third triumph on the road.
Newcastle made the ideal start, going a try up on seven minutes when Opeti Fonua’s run down the left punctured the home defence. Play was worked infield by Joel Hodgson, and when Chris Harris made a line-break on the 22 it was fellow Cumbrian Mark Wilson who was on his shoulder to collect the inside pass.
Sonatane Takulua made no mistake with the simple conversion, the visitors forced onto the defensive when Sinoti’s last-ditch tackle on Jason Woodward prevented the Kiwi from making a scoring pass.
Takulua took his side’s lead into double figures when a scrum 40 metres out delivered a penalty, one the Tongan duly dispatched, and there was better to come on 22 minutes when Vereniki Goneva ghosted through the middle of a ruck for an unconverted try.
Takulua drilled over a second penalty when Bristol were blown for obstruction on half-way, the home side marched back a further 10 metres to allow the Tongan a successful pop at the posts.
Bristol came back into the contest with a strong spell of territory and possession during the closing 10 minutes of the opening half, but Newcastle’s counter-mauling and defensive organisation ensured they had to settle for only a Gavin Henson penalty as the visitors went into the interval 18-3 up.
Newcastle regained their ascendancy in the early exchanges of the second half, posting a third try when Marcus Watson jinked his way past the last man for a well-taken converted try down the left.
That put his side just one try away from a bonus point, but it was Bristol who struck next when Alby Mathewson tapped a penalty on the Falcons’ 22 to set up a close-range ruck from which replacement prop Jamal Ford-Robinson burrowed over for a converted try.
The Falcons hit back when Goneva raced the length for a trademark interception, bringing with it the four-try bonus as the Fijian repeated a trick he has shown numerous times this season.
Goneva broke and teed up Chris Harris for the final Newcastle try on 75 minutes, removing any doubt about the result, even when Jack Tovey and Mitch Eadie scored late consolation tries.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Marcus Watson, 14 Vereniki Goneva (Alex Tait, 65), 13 Chris Harris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Joel Hodgson (Craig Willis, 66), 9 Sonatane Takulua (Sam Egerton, 74); 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Scott Lawson (Kyle Cooper, 58), 3 Jon Welsh (Scott Wilson, 65), 4 Calum Green, 5 Sean Robinson (Will Witty, 69), 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (captain), 8 Opeti Fonua (Callum Chick, 54).
Falcons scorers - Tries: Mark Wilson, Vereniki Goneva 2, Marcus Watson, Chris Harris. Conversions: Sonatane Takulua 3. Penalties: Sonatane Takulua 2.
Bristol Rugby: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Ryan Edwards, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Gavin Henson (Siale Piutau, 50), 11 Jack Tovey, 10 Billy Searle (Tusi Pisi, 50), 9 Alby Mathewson (Andy Uren, 59); 1 Jack O’Connell (Ollie Dawe, 67), 2 Marc Jones (captain, Max Crumpton), 3 Gaston Cortes (Jamal Ford-Robinson, 50), 4 James Phillips, 5 Mark Sorenson (Ben Glynn, 50), 6 Sam Jeffries (Nick Fenton-Wells, 50), 7 Olly Robinson, 8 Mitch Eadie.
Bristol scorers - Tries: Jamal Ford-Robinson, Jack O’Connell, Jack Tovey, Mitch Eadie. Conversions: Jason Woodward 3. Penalties: Gavin Henson.
Referee: Luke Pearce. Attendance: 9,822.
Woodward, Edwards, Hurrell, Henson, Tovey, Searle, Mathewson, O'Connell, Jones, Cortes, Phillips, Sorenson, Jeffries, Robinson, Eadie
Replacements Crumpton, Dawe, Ford-Robinson, Glynn, Fenton-Wells, Uren, Pisi, Piutau
Watson, Goneva, Harris, Socino, Sinoti, Hodgson, Takulua, Vickers, Lawson, Welsh, Green, Robinson, Wilson, Welch, Fonua
Replacements Cooper, Harris, Wilson, Witty, Chick, Egerton, Willis, Tait
referee: Luke Pearce
assistant: Adam Leal
assistant: Andrew Pearce
TMO: Trevor Fisher