Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam believes his players will grow in confidence after retaining their Gallagher Premiership status for another season.

Lam, a key figure in Newcastle's only Premiership title as a player, returned to Kingston Park to inflict a final defeat of the season - 19-12 - on the already-relegated Falcons.

Lam has put together an impressive Bristol outfit that just missed out on a top-six spot on their return to the top tier, finishing ninth, five points behind Bath.

Lam said: "We're disappointed to have missed out on the chance of finishing sixth. We blew so many chances to get that extra point (in matches) and we have missed out on a few points this season.

"But what this does is give us the confidence going forward. We've competed right through the season - bar the Worcester game - and I'm extremely proud of what we've done because there was a lot to tidy up off the field, our culture, our vision, and everyone understanding where we're trying to go.

"I'm now really looking forward to pre-season after a short break because there are so many guys coming back and only a few leaving.

"So many of those boys now get a second year of playing Premiership rugby, and that's what Bristol has missed out on all these years.

"Even Newcastle, my old team, have had Premiership rugby for 10 years and it gives you experience you can't dismiss.

"We've had just one year out of the last 10, and this will give us the chance to build."

Lam paid tribute to the three players who will be leaving in George Smith, Jack Lam and Tusi Pisi.

"We brought all the squad up for the match to acknowledge the season and those three players," added Lam.

"George is a legend in the game. We had respect for him before he came to us and that went up another level when we worked with him.

"What he puts into the game, and what he does working with younger players, he' is a real mentor. The influence he has had in world rugby is truly unbelievable.

"Both Tusi and Jack have put their bodies on the line for the club, and the boys were determined to honour all three."

Newcastle are likely to lose several players before life in the Championship.

Director of rugby Dean Richards said: "It's a disappointing end to the season.

"They were a side aiming for the top six and we were a side already relegated, so it was always going to be a difficult game.

"I don't know how many line breaks we made and didn't convert. We're making the opportunities and we just don't have the accuracy to finish them off. That's probably been the story of the season.

"Bristol are are not a bad side. They have two or three really good players who have a massive impact on how they play, and they were all out on the field and that makes them a difficult side to beat.

"There was a huge amount of fragmentation, with lots of knock ons from us.

"We are now looking at boys who want to be here for the Championship next season and who want to put it in their performance and improve on that accuracy."