Tommy Bell’s late try gave Leicester Tigers their fourth consecutive Aviva Premiership Rugby win and broke Newcastle Falcons hearts in a low-scoring encounter at Kingston Park.
Falcons led 12-9 with just five minutes remaining as they looked set to beat the Tigers for the first time in six years but replacement Bell made the telling contribution for a 16-12 triumph.
Newcastle looked the more dangerous in open play, as Leicester controlled the scrum, so it was no surprise that Scott Lawson and Sinoti Sinoti crossed for the hosts while two Freddie Burns penalties were all the visitors had to show for their first-half efforts.
But Burns narrowed the gap with a third penalty early in the second period and Bell dotted down following a cross-field kick to move the Tigers level on points with fourth-placed Bath Rugby.
Director of rugby Richard Cockerill welcomed back England trio Tom Croft, Geoff Parling and Tom Youngs from international duty, with the latter skippering Tigers for the first time.
March 2009 was the last time the Falcons beat Leicester – a 14-10 home victory that day – but six years on, they landed the first blow of the game with ten minutes on the clock.
Mathew Tait was forced to run the ball out of play deep in his own territory and from the resulting line-out, the hosts demonstrated the driving maul that was so effective against Saracens last week.
This time hooker Lawson was the beneficiary as he had the simple task of touching down for his first league try of the season – Tom Catterick adding the extras.
Burns narrowed the gap to 7-3 following a scrum penalty soon after and moved them within one point ten minutes before half-time as the home side were pinged at the breakdown.
With Catterick controlling the territory game thanks to some precise kicking out of hand, Newcastle appeared favourites to notch the next score and Sinoti duly obliged on 37 minutes.
A flowing team move saw Adam Powell float a pass out to the Samoan winger, who used his strength to hold off two tacklers and dot down one-handed in the corner.
Catterick’s conversion bounced back off the post but the home side still held a 12-6 lead at the interval.
And the Falcons maintained their momentum after the break, setting up camp in the Leicester 22, although the visiting defence consistently stymied their hosts.
A 52nd minute Catterick penalty fell just short of the uprights but with the fly-half starting to find holes in the Tigers backline with his evasive running, a Newcastle score seemed inevitable.
Instead, Burns narrowed the gap from the tee following an infringement at the breakdown and had an opportunity to level things up heading into the final quarter but his penalty from halfway came up five metres short.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, the Tigers became increasingly desperate and after a spell of sustained pressure, they took the lead for the first time with five minutes remaining.
A cross-field kick was contested in the air by brothers Mathew and Alex Tait and Bell was on hand to dot down for the Tigers.
Burns nailed the conversion for a 16-12 lead and the fly-half almost helped put the result beyond doubt on 78 minutes as he scythed through the home defence.
A few phases later Cockerill’s troops thought they had burrowed over but the TMO ruled the ball was held up short.
It didn’t matter however, as Newcastle failed to pull off a miracle and were forced to settle for a losing bonus point as they lost at home in the league for the first time in 2015.
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