THE Parc des Princes stands on the 'Bois de Bologne', an ancient fortification from which the citizens of France would repel a series of European invaders.

But, in all of its years as a battleground, the Parisian venue cannot have seen many more one-sided contests than the relentless assault that ended Newcastle Falcons' Heineken Cup hopes on Saturday.

Under siege from first minute to last, the Falcons mounted a spirited rearguard action that was unable to conceal the vast gulf in ability that separates the French champions and a side still trying to establish themselves in the upper echelons of the English game.

Newcastle's footballers might have displayed fighting spirit of an altogether more unsavoury nature but, while the city's rugby stars retained their discipline before Epi Taione's late yellow card for a high tackle, they were utterly outclassed by a Stade Francais side who look well capable of lifting the Heineken Cup next month.

"It's the first time we've been at this level as a club," said a frank Falcons coach, Rob Andrew. "And, clearly, we came a long way short.

"We never really got ourselves out of the pressure that they were putting us under and we were over-powered.

"But, equally, we didn't do ourselves a great deal of justice. We'll be the first to put our hands up as a group of players and admit that we didn't perform particularly well.

"We were up against it anyway and, to have any chance, we would have to have been pretty near the top of our game. If we're honest, we weren't anywhere near that."

Andrew had spoken before the game of the power of the Stade Francais pack but, while Newcastle were well aware of the physical threat they would have to negotiate, they were unable to come up with a way of overcoming it.

Led by imposing number eight Shaun Sowerby, the Stade forwards simply battered their opposite numbers into submission, setting up countless attacking platforms for the home side's backs to exploit.

With fly-half David Skrela pulling the strings with a series of incisive bursts and an immaculate display of place-kicking, Stade ran in seven tries as Newcastle found themselves camped inside their own 22.

Andrew can point to the unfortunate absence of Colin Charvis and Ian Peel but, after successfully moulding his backline into one of the most potent in the Premiership, the Falcons boss is going to have to begin the same reconstructive surgery on his pack.

The best runners in the world cannot function without the ball in their hand and, before full-back Matt Burke crossed for a consolation score eight minutes from time, Newcastle's attackers had spent almost all of the game in their own half.

They weren't helped by a disappointing kicking display from fly-half Dave Walder but, ultimately, a series of errors forced by unrelenting pressure from the home side condemned Newcastle to defeat.

"They played a power-pressure game which they're very good at," admitted Andrew. "The power of their side obviously made a difference.

"Their territorial game was clearly a tactical ploy and, with that territory, they were able to put an enormous amount of physical pressure on us.

"We put our bodies on the line. We scored a very good try but we didn't give ourselves enough opportunities to do that.

"We made a lot of mistakes. We made a lot of silly knock-ons at the base of rucks and allowed ourselves to be turned over far too often.

"Some of that was down to the size and strength of their players, but you can't operate at this level making those sorts of mistakes.

"Maybe we've got to go back to the drawing board and learn the lessons of what we're talking about at this level."

The tone of the game was set from the kick-off as Falcons wing Michael Stephenson turned over possession to set up an attacking move that eventually ended in Skrela slotting the first of his two penalties.

A rare Walder burst gave Burke the chance to level but, after the Australian saw his penalty attempt drift narrowly wide, any semblance of parity was quickly removed.

Olivier Sarramea's 11th-minute scissors move underlined the vibrancy of the home side's attack and, while the full-back was held up a yard from the line, Stade successfully recycled the ball so that Brian Liebenberg's missed pass sent hooker Mathieu Blin into the corner.

Burke's penalty got Newcastle onto the scoresheet, but Blin extended Stade's lead in controversial fashion shortly after.

Irish referee Alain Rolland made the first of a number of debatable decisions when he ruled that Skrela's kick had brushed a Falcons player before finding touch and, after a rolling maul had taken the Stade pack to the try line, the hooker dropped over to score.

Blin's arsenal also included attacking bursts, and it was his 31st-minute surge that paved the way for Sarramea to come into the line and hold off a despairing tackle from Mike McCarthy before touching down.

With Skrela's kicking ensuring there would be no respite for the visitors, a half-time scoreline of 22-3 looked like preceding a second-half massacre.

It didn't turn out that way and, for 20 minutes, neither side were able to add to their tally.

But, after Raphael Poulain exploited an overlap on the left wing to go over in the corner, Julien Arias brushed aside both Burke and Mathew Tait to score the try of the game on the opposite side.

Newcastle's consolation score came from skipper Jamie Noon's one attacking burst, with the England international punching a hole through the middle before Taione's pass found Andy Long, who in turn sent Burke over in the right-hand corner.

Taione's afternoon ended on a sour note as he was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Remy Martin, and his team-mates did not fare much better as Stade ran in two further tries in the last two minutes.

Both went to Sarramea, taking his total for the afternoon to three, and Andrew was left to reflect on how far the Falcons have come in his ten years at the helm but, perhaps more significantly, how far they still have to go