Leicester Tigers 60 Falcons 7

Saturday 30 September 2023 Written by: Mark Smith

Newcastle Falcons suffered their first defeat of the season on Saturday when in-form Leicester Tigers maintained their flying start to the Premiership Rugby Cup.

The penultimate pool clash saw the Falcons 39-0 down after a nightmare first half at Mattioli Woods Welford Road – their hosts running rampant with seven tries in a power-packed opening.

The Falcons showed much more after half-time in both defence and attack, but unfortunately by that stage the result was a formality.

The visitors trailed as early as the third minute when home skipper Hanro Liebenberg scored an unconverted try from a maul in the left corner – Leicester having built field position with some simple one-out runners.

A maul in similar position brought the Tigers’ second try when Charlie Clare steered them over for another unconverted score, and their hopes for a third maul score down the left were only thwarted when the Falcons stole a line-out near their own line to clear the danger.

On 18 minutes Leicester’s dominance continued when Joe Powell sniped over for a try from the scrum base, Charlie Atkinson adding the simple conversion from in front.

Tigers’ race towards the four-try bonus was temporarily thwarted when Guy Pepper stole a line-out inside his own 22, but on 25 minutes they encountered no such resistance when centre Guy Porter collected a long, looping pass to score in the left corner.

The Falcons’ gradient became even steeper on the half-hour when Pepper was sin-binned for a late tackle on a Leicester clearance kicker, and the hosts made them pay within a minute when prop Francois van Wyk ploughed over from a pick-and-go in the left corner.

Clare grabbed his second try from a maul in the right corner as the tide of green showed no sign of turning, and they led 39-0 at half-time when Powell sniped in for his second converted try.

The start of the second half finally saw Newcastle exhibiting the intensity which had been so lacking until that point, the visitors camping themselves in Leicester’s 22 and getting off the mark when Jamie Blamire scored from a maul in the right corner as a penalty was sent into touch.

Brett Connon slotted the touchline conversion, and having shown a much greater degree of defensive resistance the Falcons conceded their first try of the half just before the hour mark when Liebenberg powered over for his second from a close-range pick and go.

Ben Stevenson almost scored a second Falcons try when the winger chipped a defender on halfway and pinned his ears back for the left corner, only to be bundled into touch five metres short.

Welsh back-rower Sam Cross came on for his Newcastle debut in the last half-hour and provided a lively cameo, with club captain Callum Chick among the willing carriers despite the result being well out of their reach.

Leicester picked up again towards the end and earned a try from a five-metre scrum as Matt Rogerson scored from the base – Tom Whiteley rounding off the scoring by darting over from a scrum to dive in at the right corner.

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Elliott Obatoyinbo, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Tom Penny, 12 Matias Orlando, 11 Ben Stevenson (Cameron Hutchison, 65), 10 Brett Connon (Louie Johnson, 60), 9 Sam Stuart (Hugh O’Sullivan, 49); 1 Adam Brocklebank (Phil Brantingham, 40), 2 Jamie Blamire (Michael van Vuuren, 63), 3 Mark Tampin (Murray McCallum, 40), 4 Tim Cardall (Sam Cross, 50), 5 Kiran McDonald (Sebastian de Chaves, 40), 6 Freddie Lockwood, 7 Guy Pepper, 8 Callum Chick (captain).

Scorers – Tries: Jamie Blamire. Conversions: Brett Connon.

Leicester Tigers: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Josh Bassett, 13 Guy Porter, 12 Dan Kelly(Phil Cokanasiga, 65), 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins (Jamie Shillcock, 56), 10 Charlie Atkinson, 9 Joe Powell (Tom Whiteley, 55), 1 Francois Van Wyk (James Whitcombe, 58), 2 Charlie Clare (Nic Dolly,55), 3 Joe Heyes (Will Hurd, 58), 4 Cameron Henderson, 5 Harry Wells (Mike Williams, 52), 6 Hanro Liebenberg (captain), 7 Olly Cracknell (Kyle Hatherell, 58), 8 Matt Rogerson.

Scorers – Tries: Hanro Liebenberg 2, Charlie Clare 2, Joe Powell 2, Guy Porter, Francois van Wyk, Matt Rogerson, Tom Whiteley. Conversions: Charlie Atkinson 5.

Referee: George Selwood.