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Newcastle Falcons 18 Leicester Tigers 41

02 Mar 2014
Newcastle Falcons 18 Leicester Tigers 41

Vereniki Goneva scored a try in each half as Leicester Tigers stayed fourth in the Aviva Premiership with a bonus-point win at Kingston Park.

The mercurial Fijian jinked clear down the right wing before chipping ahead and winning the race to touch down and put the Tigers ahead on the stroke of half-time.

And the 29-year-old was at it again in the second-half, this time bursting over from close range to halt a potential Falcons comeback before Thomas Waldrom and the impressive Pablo Matera iced the win late on to seal the bonus point.

Before that Noah Cato had gone over for the hosts, who also had a second-half score from Scott Lawson, but it proved to be in vain as they slumped to a tenth successive league defeat.

Owen Williams added 19 points from the kicking tee for the defending champions as they claimed a fourth win in a row to climb back above Harlequins into the play-off places.

It was the Falcons who drew first blood at Kingston Park on Sunday when Lee Smith, making his first league start since his conversion from rugby league, smashed over a long-distance penalty.

Williams responded in kind for the Tigers but the hosts were in the ascendancy and it was they that deservedly notched the opening try of the match.

And it was the in-form Cato who went over, the former Northampton man going over for his fifth try of the season down the right after the over-eager Manu Tuilagi, in his first game back from injury, came bursting out of the defensive line.

Phil Godman added the extras and with a quarter of an hour played the Falcons were 10-3 to the good.

Williams, who continues to be picked over the departing Toby Flood at fly-half for Leicester, bisected the posts with his second penalty shortly afterwards when Kieran Brookes, formerly of Leicester, was pinged at the breakdown.

But it was the Falcons who looked the more menacing with ball in hand, Smith in particular impressing on the left wing for Dean Richards’ side.

The half hour was approaching when the Tigers finally began to make some ground and they came agonisingly close to their first try.

No.8 Jordan Crane went rumbling through the middle and offloaded to Marcos Ayerza who was dragged down inches short of the try line.

Instead of recycling possession the Argentine attempted a tricky offload to Ben Youngs and the ball was lost forward. But Tigers were beginning to turn the screws and when Andy Saull went off his feet Williams slotted a third penalty of the half to close it to a one-point game.

Another fine Smith cameo for the Falcons was then curtailed by a late hit from Logovi’i Mulipola and Godman slotted the penalty to stretch lead to 13-9.

But as half-time approached the Tigers hit the front for the first time, and it took a moment of magic from Goneva to conjure something from nothing.

The 29-year-old breaking Smith’s tackle down the right, cut inside past another despairing tackler before chipping forward and winning the race to touch the ball down over the line.

Williams missed with the touchline conversion however meaning that at the interval the Tigers led 14-13.

The Falcons would have been looking for a fast start to the second half but their momentum was derailed by the boot of Williams.

The former Scarlets stand-off notched two quick-fire penalties in the first three minutes of the second period, the second of which was from more than 50 metres out and sailed through the uprights.

With a 20-13 lead as the hour mark approached it appeared that the Tigers were well set to hold on in comfortable style.

But the Falcons were handed a huge boost when the Tigers lost Ben Youngs to the sin bin for a deliberate knock on when Cato again caused carnage in the visitors 22.

And the Falcons did not take long to make their numerical advantage count, hooker Lawson showing the poaching instinct of a winger to stretch out and ground in the corner after a driving maul had splintered the Tigers defensive line.

Smith’s attempted conversion was dragged wide in the wind however and that meant that with a quarter of an hour to play the Tigers held a slender lead at 20-18.

USA international Blaine Scully thought he had stretched the Tigers lead again when he went over moments later in the left corner but the final pass was ruled forward and the Falcons survived.

But their stay of execution was shortlived as the visitors, still down to 14 men, struck again and it was that man Goneva bursting through from close range after a driving maul had set up field position.

Williams added the extras and the Tigers were not done there as, restored to their full complement, replacements Waldrom and David Mele combined to put the former over under the posts to seal the win.

The visitors did have to spend the final ten minutes back down to 14 men when Tuilagi was also sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock on but they continued to dominate and Matera’s late effort sealed a vital try bonus point, their first since round three.

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