Match Report

- - 19

Newcastle Falcons -

Saturday 26th Dec 2015

Newcastle stormed into a 10-0 lead inside 14 minutes and were level at the break, but second-half tries from Peter Betham and Laurence Pearce were their undoing as the Tigers stuck to their task.

An extraordinary opening half included three sin binnings, two tries and a further two disallowed by the television match official as the visitors made their presence felt, testing the East Midlands giants in every department.

The Falcons were well worth their early lead after a blistering opening quarter, Craig Willis marking his first Premiership start with an assured showing in which he probed the gain line and linked well with runners around him.

His fifth minute penalty rewarded the visitors’ dominance of the opening exchanges, Newcastle native Fraser Balmain sin binned for a tip tackle on the 20 yearold who promptly shook himself down and nailed the long-range penalty.

Mark Wilson’s move to second row showed no slow-down in work-rate from the energetic Cumbrian as he trucked the ball up the middle, Michael Young and Chris Harris both kicking neatly to the corner as the visitors enjoyed the better of the early territory.

The decision to turn down a kickable penalty in pursuit of greater gains was rewarded when a line out in the right corner provided a platform for Nili Latu to score, the Tongan driven over from a textbook rolling maul.

Willis showed no nerves in nailing the touchline conversion, the double digit deficit sparking the hosts into life.

Twice denied tries from attacking mauls due to Newcastle’s improved line out defence, the Tigers relied on a Freddie Burns penalty for their first points.

Belisario Agulla’s sin bin saw the scales tipping further Leicester’s way as Telusa Veainu scored at the second attempt, the Tongan knocking-on from a cross-kick but managing to ground the ball moments later from simple hands to the right corner.

Wilson joined Agulla in the sin bin as Newcastle went down to 13, the Falcons somehow holding out until the break as former favourite Mathew Tait dropped the ball in the act of scoring.

It was Leicester who emerged the stronger out of the changing rooms, Peter Betham rewarding their early pressure when the Kiwi sped into the left corner for their second try.

Burns converted from outside, Newcastle’s defence holding tight until the last five minutes as they strived to hang on for a share of the points.

Given the chaos of the opening 40 it was a relatively low-key second period, though it lacked nothing in niggle as both packs ploughed into each other.

Newcastle established a solid scrum platform and earned territory through the kicking of Tane Takulua, but the Tigers turned the screw in the final quarter as they turned down three kickable penalties in search of attacking line outs.

It finally paid off in the dying stages when Laurence Pearce grounded in the right corner, the home side playing an advantage from a high tackle to good effect as they exploited the wide channels.

It was a cruel blow which put the Falcons outside of losing bonus point range, Bath their next opponents when the West Country club visit Kingston Park Stadium on Saturday.

**Newcastle Falcons**
S Hammersley, A Tait, B Agulla (JP Socino, 61), C Harris, M Watson, C Willis (T Catterick, 74), M Young (T Takulua, 24); R Vickers, G McGuigan (S Lawson, 74), J Welsh, M Wilson, S Robinson, A Hogg (T Clever, 74), W Welch (captain), N Latu.
Sin-bin: B Agulla (27), M Wilson (30).

Falcons scorers – Tries: N Latu. Conversions: C Willis. Penalties: C Willis.

**Leicester Tigers**
M Tait, T Veainu, P Betham, M Smith (S Bai, 36), V Goneva, F Burns, B Youngs (S Harrison, 69); L Mulipola (M Aguero, 46), H Thacker (T Youngs, 55), F Balmain (D Cole, 55), D Barrow (S de Chaves, 73), E Slater (captain), T Croft, L McCaffrey (O Fonua, 55), L Pearce.
Sin-bin: F Balmain (4)

Tigers scorers – Tries: T Veainu, P Betham, L Pearce. Conversions: F Burns 2. Penalties: F Burns.

Referee: T Wigglesworth.