NEWCASTLE Falcons could yet be handed a last-gasp relegation reprieve after Cornish Pirates unexpectedly thrashed Bristol 45-24 in the first leg of their Championship play-off semi-final this afternoon.

The Pirates cannot be promoted to the Aviva Premiership as their home ground does not meet the leagues requirements.

Bristol had been strong favourites for the play-offs after finishing the regular season on top of the table, but after conceding five second-half tries, they will have to produce a remarkable turnaround in the second leg at the Memorial Ground.

Loading article content

London Welsh, who beat Bedford 13-3 in the first leg of the other semi-final, have applied for promotion, but it is not yet known whether their ground is acceptable to Premiership officials.