It's game day in a must win match in the Gallagher Premiership.

Bristol Bears face Newcastle Falcons on Friday night in what has been billed as a crucial away game for the club if they are going to climb the Gallagher Premiership table.

This weekend reprensents that halfway mark in the regular league season and Bristol find themselves in eighth position in the standings, eight points off the play-offs, while winless Falcons are bottom of the pile.

Both the Bears and Falcons come into the game having rested most of their first team players for last weekend's European away days, with an inexperieneced Bristol side going down 36-17 to Bordeaux Begles at the Stade Chaban-Delmas.

The game kicks off at 7.45pm on Friday night.

Follow all the build-up, team news, live play-by-play match updates, reaction, stats, analysis and highlights from Kingston Park with regular updates below...

Reaction from Pat Lam

Bristol Bears player ratings from Newcastle Falcons win - 'absolutely blockbuster'

South West rugby writer John Evely takes a closer look at the individual performances from the Bristol Bears players..

It will come as no surprise that centre Virimi Vakatawa top scored with a 9/10 but get the full ratings for the whole squad right here.

Bristol Bears centre Virimi Vakatawa breaks away to score (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

MATCH REPORT - Red-hot Virimi Vakatawa scorches Newcastle Falcons to deliver Bristol Bears victory

The real Virimi Vakatawa arrived for Bristol Bears on Friday night and he did so in style.

Can you do it on a wet, cold winter's night at Kingston Park is Premiership rugby's version of the character test for players and teams and just three days before Christmas, Vakatawa - who had a year out of the game in 2022/23 due to a French rugby's strict rules around his heart condition - and his Bristol teammates answered that question emphatically with a hard-fought 21-13 victory.

Get the full story.

ristol Bears player Virimi Vakatawa breaks past Jamie Blamire on his way to score (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Reaction from Bristol Bears centre Benhard Janse van Rensburg,

Newcastle made it really tough out there for us.

It was a really important game for us, just before Christmas in the final game of first half of the season.

It is amazing to play with a guy like Virimi, the individual brilliance he brings is so important in a game like today. It is really fun to play with him.

We started really well this season but then went through a dip, losing five in a row, but in the last three or four games we have played more like a team. It feels like the new players like me are settling in. We will just have to see how far we can go.

I have a lot of hope and believe in the team we have.

A quick look at the table

Bears climb one place overnight to leapfrog Leicester Tigers who are away at Exeter Chiefs tomorrow.

Match action

Bristol Bears player Virimi Vakatawa touches down to score (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
ristol Bears player Virimi Vakatawa breaks past Jamie Blamire on his way to score (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Bristol Bears player Magnus Bradbury is grabbed by the shorts by Falcons' Ollie Spencer (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Official man of the match

It had to be..... Virimi Vakatawa just beats his centre partner Benhard Janse van Rensburg to the gong.

What a game from the Fijian-born Frenchman.

Stay tuned

Full reaction to come.

FULL TIME - Newcastle Falcons 13 Bristol Bears 21

A valuable away with for the Bears who come away with four match points from their trip to Kingston Park after scoring three tries, the pick of the bunch from the outstanding Virimi Vakatawa.


TRY - Newcastle Falcons

Towering Falcons replacement lock Kiran McDonald thrusts his huge framer over the line, crashing onto a pass in the midfield to run through the tackle of Gabriel Oghre and a couple of Bears team mates.

Rory Jennings knocks over the easy conversion to bring the game to a close.


Falcons play on

Bears replacement Paddy Pearce is penalised for dragging down the Newcastle maul illegally following the line out.

The hosts can't do anything with the advantage so kick to the corner again.


One last chance

Newcastle win a scrum penalty and opt to keep the game alive by kicking to the corner.

Bristol need to turn it over and go 90m to get their bonus point.

Falcons are playing for pride.


Bristol running from deep

The Bears want this bonus point now the win is secure.

Max Malins spots mismatches in the defensive line in front of him and accelerates away on the outside, but with the rain coming down his pass to new man Noah Heward bounces off the chest of the winger and into touch.

Chance gone. 6-21

TRY - Bristol Bears - 6-21

Bristol are on the attack again, they would love an attacking bonus point from this game.

Replacement lock Kiran McDonald is penalised for not supporting his weight going for a turnover over Steven Luatua on the ground.

Callum Sheedy kicks to the corner with the lineout to come.

Gabriel Oghre hits James Dun at the lineout and maul is set around the lock, spinning to the openside with some help from the backs and the hooker powers over the line.

Sheedy converts.


Trylights - you have to watch this

Falcons to finish with 14 men

Newcastle have emptied their bench.

Which means with Mateo Carreras taking a blow in a collision off the ball chasing a kick, the hosts will have to finish the match a man down.

Can Bristol take advantage.


TRY - Bristol Bears - 6-14


Virimi Vakatawa has just scored a worldie!

The French international centre has beaten five defenders by himself to score from 25m out.

Attacking from a lineout the ball comes out to the centre on a line back against the grain, he hands off Jamie Blamire and then weaves his way to the tryline, carrying two men over the whitewash on his broad back.

Callum Sheedy sweeps home the extras.


Poor play from Falcons but relief for Bristol.

That is horrible execution from Newcastle.

Attacking from a scrum on the Bristol 22, Falcons try and go down the blindside with number eight Callum Chick playing the ball off the base of the scrum but the skipper makes a hash of the pass and misses Tom Penny to allow Callum Sheedy to race up and hack the ball deep down-field.

Pressure released for now.


Huge tackle

As Max Lahiff would say, Magnus Bradbury just 'met his ancestors.'

The Scottish number eight was just absolutely smashed by powerhouse Pedro Rubiolo who forces a knock on to hand Falcons a dangerous attacking scrum in the opposition 22.


Dangerous break

Replacement Falcons scrum half Hugh O’Sullivan darts through a gap in the Bristol defence and eats up 25m to get into opposition territory before linking up with new centre George Wacokecoke.

Moments later Tom Penny makes an outstanding break, bouncing out of tackles and weaving his way through the visitors like he has a forcefield on him.

Falcons are growing in confidence and looking increasingly dangerous.

Bristol desperately need to take some of the momentum out of this Newcastle resurgance.


Momentus turnover

Magnus Bradbury survives the first attempt to clear him out at a ruck to jackle over Jamie Blamire and return the favor to the hooker who only moments earlier turned him over.

That was a big moment because Newcastle were looking as dangerous as they have all game and building some momentum, with the home crowds voices growing in volume.


Turned over close to the line

Attacking from the lineout, Bristol blast through the middle of Falcons through Magnus Bradbury who gets close to the tryline, but the outstanding Falcons hooker Jamie Blamire is the first man to the breakdown and he jackles over the ball to win a vital penalty for not releasing.

Newcastle can clear their lines through Rory Jennings.


Poor accuracy from Bristol

The Bears have a scrum 30m out from the Falcons 22.

Bristol win a penalty at the setpiece and so have a free ball to play with but their passing isn't crisp enough as Harry Randall breaks down the blindside and tries to link up with Gabriel Ibitoye on the wing but the pass is too high an the stretching winger can't keep it in-field.

We come back for the penalty which Callum Sheedy punches into the corner.


Former France star impressing

Virimi Vakatawa is having one of his best games since signing for Bristol this summer with ball in hand.

His pace looks to be returning to top speed and again he backs himself on the outside after bouncing out of a tackle.

He is going to finish with an outstanding number of players beaten at the end of this game, but the only stat that counts is the scoreline and that is very close.


PENALTY GOAL - Newcastle Falcons - 6-7

Well this is a big call by Falcons head coach Alex Codling.

He replaces his nine and 10 and the first thing Rory Jennings has to do is knock over a 35m central kick after Steven Luatua was caught offside at a ruck trying to turn the ball over.

In the wind that is a fine strike.


Bristol unable to protect the ball

Callum Sheedy strips the ball in a tackle and Kyle Sinckler nicely ships the ball into space for Benhard Janse van Rensburg to race away.

But at the next ruck Falcons come up with a penalty for not releasing with replacement Pedro Rubiolo latching onto the ball. For me he looked like a tackler and needed to release by the referee saw it differently.


Worrying possible injury

Jake Woolmore is off with a potential injury.

Max Lahiff, who can play on both sides of the scrum, is on.

That isn't the problem tonight.

The problem is Ellis Genge is another month off with a hamstring injury and Yann Thomas is also still injured.

The Bears are very thin at loosehead.



That is a beauty of a kick.

Young Falcons fly-half Louie Johnson spots that Max Malins is trapped in a ruck having just chased his own chip kick unsuccessfully and launches a stunning arrow of a kick into the corner, bouncing into touch for a very dangerous 50/22.



Louie Johnson gets the game underway for the Falcons but Virimi Vakatawa takes cleanly and takes off, breaking the line and accelerating away, really showing his speed.

The Bears make 60m in a flash, but for at least the fifth time in the game visitors get turned over in a promising position.


Here come the teams

Harry Thacker went off for a HIA just before the break.

He has not returned for the second half with Gabriel Oghre playing the rest of the game for the Bears.