Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam was delighted with the way his Premiership leaders fought back from a slow start to claim a 34-17 bonus-point victory at Newcastle.
The Bears trailed 10-0 approaching the half-hour mark at Kingston Park but three late first-half tries turned the game on its head.
Two more followed after the interval as Bristol retained their 12-point advantage at the summit going into next weekend’s clash with second-placed Exeter.
A poor start
“We blew an opportunity at the beginning and wanted to start well,” Lam said.
“It’s not easy to come up here and we had an early opportunity to score but didn’t take it.
“We then gave away a lot of penalties but to come up here and get five points in the context of this season is absolutely massive.
“The first 20 minutes wasn’t what we are about and we lost a little bit of focus.
“After that, we showed what can do when we have our systems in place and understand the patterns that we have.”
Lam reserved particular praise for Max Malins, the Saracens loanee who scored a try in each half to help set the Bears on their way.
Ben Earl, also borrowed from the capital outfit, crashed over for Bristol’s fifth score following earlier efforts from Jake Heenan and Luke Morahan.
“Max (Malins) has a license to play at full-back as he fits so well into our system,” Lam said.
“Some of our players will only get to play 50 per cent of the season so to see them in a game like this today makes it really difficult as a coach.
“We then have different players who are in on loan and really want to make an impact.”
Malins is selling dummies! A 2-4-1 special 🤩😅
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) April 17, 2021
Lam’s opposite number Dean Richards offered no excuses following the Falcons’ fifth straight Premiership defeat.
Michael Young’s try broke the deadlock but the hosts could not find their next score until Kyle Cooper crashed over in the dying minutes, leaving Richards ruing his side’s carelessness in possession.
“We weathered an early storm and found ourselves ahead but the three tries just before half-time were critical,” he said.
“It’s the manner in which we conceded them that is the problem. We could have been in control in the tempo of the game but the ball was turned over too much – you can’t afford to do that against a side like Bristol.
“We know our skill set wasn’t good enough. The accuracy of phases wasn’t there, theirs was far better and we have been punished.
“When we get things right, we look like a top team but there are certain things we aren’t able to do right consistently.
“It’s a very tight line between what we are doing well and what we need to work on.”