Vereniki Goneva’s hat-trick and the boot of new fly-half Freddie Burns helped Leicester Tigers see off the challenge of Newcastle Falcons at Welford Road to get their Aviva Premiership campaign off to a flying start.
Burns quickly made himself at home in his new surroundings as he kicked four penalties from four attempts to hand Leicester a 12-3 lead at half-time, Juan Pablo Socino replying with a three-pointer of his own for the visitors.
Newcastle came flying out of the blocks after the restart however and brought themselves to within two points of the Tigers after Socino had converted Richard Mayhew’s try.
But this just seemed to wake Leicester up and they replied with two quick-fire Goneva tries to reassert their dominance.
And the wing wrapped up his hat-trick as he intercepted the ball 5m from Leicester’s tryline before racing the length of the field, David Mele adding a fourth try to secure the Tigers’ bonus point.
Andy Saull grabbed a second Newcastle try with ten minutes left but it was too little too late as Leicester wrapped up another opening day victory.
Newcastle made a promising start to the game but the home side soon started turning the screw and after they were camped on the Falcons tryline Leicester went ahead as Burns kicked an easy penalty.
Sinoti Sinoti then saved a certain try with a big tackle of a rampaging Logovi’i Mulipola only for Burns to be handed another comfortable kick to double Leicester’s lead.
Falcons were not about to throw in the towel though and Socino soon had the visitors on the board with a penalty of his own following some patient Falcons build up.
However moments later, after Alex Tuilagi had replaced an injured Noah Cato to a rousing Welford Road reception, Burns bisected the posts for a third time to once again hand Leicester a six-point advantage.
And that became nine points moments before half-time as Newcastle were once again pinged following a ruck, with Burns making no mistake to maintain his 100 per cent record.
However Newcastle came flying out the blocks after the restart and within a minute Simon Hammersley made a scything break before offloading to Mayhew to touch down, Socino adding the extras to bring the Falcons to within two points of their hosts.
Leicester responded in quick-fire fashion though as moments later Manu Tuilagi broke through the Newcastle defence and offloaded to Goneva who touched the ball down – following a TMO review – in the left corner. Burns’ conversion flew wide but the Tigers now held a seven-point lead.
And Goneva was at it again soon after, this time touching down following a show and go from Burns, the fly-half this time converting for a 24-10 lead.
Goneva then secured his hat-trick just after the hour mark as he intercepted the ball and ran the full length of the pitch to touch down, Burns again adding the extras.
But the home side weren’t done there as replacement scrum-half Mele pounced on a loose ball following great work from Robert Barbieri at the base of the scrum to secure Leicester the bonus point, Burns wide with the conversion.
The Falcons then had their battling second-half performance rewarded when Saull went over from a catch and drive, Socino adding the conversion, but that was as good as it got for the visitors on a tough opening day.