Falcons 13 Leicester Tigers 19

Friday 29 March 2024 Written by: Mark Smith

A season-high home crowd of 7,112 road Newcastle Falcons on to a bonus point at home to Leicester Tigers on Friday as Kingston Park hosted its ‘Big Night Oot’.

A first league win of the season frustratingly eluded the Tynesiders, with Leicester’s driving maul setting the foundation for their victory.

The home side had got off to another flying start and led inside two minutes when fly-half Brett Connon thumped over a long-range penalty on the back of early forward pressure.

But the Tigers hit back almost instantly when scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet found a soft shoulder and jinked his way over from 20 metres out.

World Cup winner Handre Pollard added the conversion from in front of the posts, but the Falcons were not rolling over and raced upfield thanks to an interception and a 50-22 kick from England Under-20s flyer Ben Redshaw.

On that occasion the move came to nought, but the same could not be said on 17 minutes when Redshaw took a short pop from Cameron Hutchison 25 metres out and scorched through a gap in the midfield defence to score in front of a jubilant South Stand.

Connon’s conversion put the Falcons three ahead, and they missed an opportunity to add to their tally when Connon found a superb touch from a penalty, only for Leicester to steal the line-out.

Tom Penny’s 100th game for Newcastle saw the centre in typically industrious mood with a string of carries and tackles, and despite a barrage of Falcons pressure the Tigers were next over the try-line, against the run of play.

The visitors were typically ruthless in kicking a penalty to the left corner and driving their way over the line, Argentina hooker Julian Montoya the man at the back of the maul for an unconverted score.

Leicester had designs on another maul try with the final play of the half when they kicked a penalty to the same corner, but heroic defence from home skipper Callum Chick saw the Falcons intercepting the ball, leaving Tigers’ 12-10 up at the break.

The visitors’ quest to add to their tally during the early exchanges of the second half was thwarted when Penny bundled England full-back Freddie Steward into touch 10 metres out, while Redshaw and Elliott Obatoyinbo continued to be secure under the high ball.

Connon fired fractionally wide with a penalty from 40 metres out in front around the hour mark as the Falcons grew back into the game, and the fly-half regained his range four minutes after from closer in to put his team ahead by a single point.

Tigers did not trail for long, however, with winger Ollie Hassell-Collins racing into the left corner for their third try, converted impressively by Pollard.

Newcastle responded with a wave of pressure which brought repeated red-zone penalties and scrum dominance, but the visitors rode the monumental late storm and held on as the Falcons had to make do with a bonus point after 15 minutes of added time.

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Elliott Obatoyinbo, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Tom Penny, 12 Cameron Hutchison (Rory Jennings, 57), 11 Ben Redshaw, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Sam Stuart; 1 Phil Brantingham (Murray McCallum, 57-71), 2 Jamie Blamire, 3 Richard Palframan (Eduardo Bello, 57), 4 Tim Cardall, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 6 Philip van der Walt, 7 Sam Cross, 8 Callum Chick (captain).

Scorers – Tries: Ben Redshaw. Conversions: Brett Connon. Penalties: Brett Connon 2.

Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Josh Bassett (Jamie Shillcock, 26), 13 Matt Scott, 12 Solomone Kata, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Jack van Poortvliet; 1 James Cronin (James Whitcombe, 71), 2 Julián Montoya (captain), 3 Will Hurd (Dan Richardson,66), 4 Harry Wells, 5 Kyle Hatherell, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Olly Cracknell, 8 Jasper Wiese.

Scorers – Tries: Jack van Poortvliet, Julian Montoya, Ollie Hassell-Collins. Conversions: Handre Pollard 2.

Referee: Karl Dickson. Attendance: 7,112.