Former New Zealand full-back Charles Piutau scored a try on his return from an Achilles injury as Bristol Bears beat Newcastle Falcons 29-17 in an entertaining Premiership clash on Friday.
© Marty Melville
Former All Black full-back Charles Piutau took just 18 minutes to score a try on his return to the Bristol Bears line-up in a 29-17 win over Newcastle Falcons
The 29-year-old Kiwi was one of four tryscorers for the hosts, who leap-frog Newcastle into second place in the table.
Bristol's victory was all the more creditworthy given they had an all new front row due to a positive coronavirus test earlier this week.
Six front row forwards had to self isolate.
European Challenge Cup titleholders Bristol join domestic and European champions Exeter -- who play Wasps in a repeat of last season's Premiership final on Saturday -- on 20 points.
Newcastle's first defeat of the season leaves them four points off the top two.
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Piutau waited only 18 minutes to score a try in his first start since recovering from injury.
Falcons captain Mark Wilson got the visitors' back into the game with their second try just prior to half-time and only trailed by four points at the break.
The hosts got on the scoresheet early in the second-half with George Kloska feeding Nathan Hughes who went over -- Welsh international Callum Sheedy converted to give them an 11-point lead.
Newcastle, though, were tenacious and refused to be shook off.
South African Phillip van der Walt marked his debut for the Falcons with a try which former England fly-half Toby Flood converted to leave the game delicately poised at 21-17 with 25 minutes remaining.
The impressive Kloska -- making the most of his chance as one of the newlook front row -- though hit back for the Bears, crossing the tryline for their fourth try -- Sheedy failing to convert -- for 26-17.
Sheedy rounded off the scoring with a penalty a minute from time.