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RFU Championship final: Newcastle seal return to Aviva Premiership
Tries from Ryan Shortland and Alex Tait in either half helped Newcastle Falcons beat Bedford Blues 31-24 at Kingston Park to seal a return to the Aviva Premiership at the first attempt.
Jimmy Gopperth notched all Newcastle's points in their 18-9 RFU Championship play-off final first leg win and kicked seven penalties in the return as Dean Richards' side won 49-33 on aggregate.
But Bedford made a real fist of it with Jake Sharp, one of six changes Mike Rayer made to the visitors' starting line-up from the first leg, kicking all their 24 points to make it nervous at times for the hosts.
Newcastle made one change to their starting line-up, with Rory Lawson replacing the injured Warren Fury at scrum-half, as Gopperth, in his last game for the Falcons before joining Leinster, carried on where he left off from the first leg by kicking a fifth minute penalty.
But Sharp responded with three penalties to leave Bedford - who had lost all four of their previous clashes with Newcastle this season - trailing by just three points on aggregate.
After the visitors were penalised for collapsing a scrum, Gopperth gratefully kicked his second penalty on the night and Shortland then went over in the corner in the 25th minute to give the Falcons some breathing space.
Sharp landed a drop goal to keep his side in touch before Gopperth and Sharp kicked two more penalties apiece to leave Bedford eight points adrift at the break.
Sharp continued his perfect kicking early in the second period to reduce the arrears to five points but Tait ran in Newcastle's second try to make it 22-21 on the night and ease the home fans' nerves.
While Sharp kicked another penalty, Gopperth landed three more penalties to make it 21 points on the night - and 39 personal points on aggregate - as the Falcons sealed their return to the Premiership.
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|Friday 27th March|
|19:30||Moseley vs Rotherham Titans|
|Saturday 28th March|
|14:30||Doncaster vs Nottingham|
|15:00||Worcester vs London Scottish|
|Sunday 29th March|
|15:00||Bristol vs Bedford|
|15:00||Cornish Pirates vs Plymouth Albion|
|15:00||Yorkshire Carnegie vs Jersey|
|Saturday 11th April|
|14:30||Jersey vs Cornish Pirates|
|15:00||London Scottish vs Nottingham|
|15:00||Bedford vs Moseley|
|15:00||Rotherham Titans vs Doncaster|
|15:00||Worcester vs Yorkshire Carnegie|
|15:00||Plymouth Albion vs Bristol|
|Friday 17th April|
|19:45||Bristol vs Jersey|
|20:00||Nottingham vs Rotherham Titans|
|Saturday 18th April|
|14:30||Doncaster vs Bedford|
|15:00||Moseley vs Plymouth Albion|
|15:00||Cornish Pirates vs Worcester|
|Sunday 19th April|
|15:00||Yorkshire Carnegie vs London Scottish|
|Saturday 25th April|
|15:00||Bedford vs Nottingham|
|15:00||Rotherham Titans vs London Scottish|
|15:00||Jersey vs Moseley|
|15:00||Plymouth Albion vs Doncaster|
|15:00||Yorkshire Carnegie vs Cornish Pirates|
|15:00||Worcester vs Bristol|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com