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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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|Saturday 27th December|
|Plymouth Albion 19 - 27 Cornish Pirates|
|Yorkshire Carnegie 17 - 36 Worcester|
|Friday 26th December|
|Bedford 24 - 28 Bristol|
|Rotherham Titans 22 - 26 Moseley|
|Sunday 21st December|
|Nottingham 24 - 3 Doncaster|
|Saturday 20th December|
|London Scottish 17 - 34 Worcester|
|Jersey 13 - 17 Yorkshire Carnegie|
|Sunday 23rd November|
|Cornish Pirates 65 - 14 Bedford|
|Bristol 26 - 17 Rotherham Titans|
|Saturday 22nd November|
|Moseley 26 - 27 Nottingham|
|Doncaster 9 - 19 London Scottish|
|Friday 21st November|
|Yorkshire Carnegie 19 - 19 Plymouth Albion|
|Worcester 32 - 29 Jersey|
|Saturday 15th November|
|Plymouth Albion 10 - 22 Worcester|
|Doncaster 13 - 28 Moseley|
|Rotherham Titans 21 - 13 Cornish Pirates|
|Friday 14th November|
|Nottingham 13 - 27 Bristol|
|Bedford 15 - 10 Yorkshire Carnegie|
|London Scottish 38 - 17 Jersey|
|Sunday 9th November|
|Cornish Pirates 13 - 28 Nottingham|
|Saturday 8th November|
|Jersey 19 - 0 Plymouth Albion|
|Moseley 16 - 9 London Scottish|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com