Falcons rise to third after dramatic win
PREMIERSHIP REPORT: Newcastle Falcons continued their march towards the Premiership play-offs with a dramatic late victory against Leicester Tigers to end a 20-year wait for a win at Welford Road.
Sonatane Takulua converted Ally Hogg’s last-minute try as the visitors snatched all four points at the death with a 25-23 triumph, following an earlier brace by Vereniki Goneva.
Tigers appeared to be in pole position to leapfrog Falcons in the top four battle thanks to tries from Jonny May and Michael Fitzgerald, with George Ford kicking 11 points from the tee.
However, the hosts now look set to miss out on the Premiership play-offs for the first time in 13 years as Dean Richards’ side moved a step closer to securing their semifinal spot.
Newcastle had got off to the perfect start after just two minutes when Goneva marked his 100th appearance for the club with a try, with Joel Hodgson adding the extras.
But the visitors’ lead did not last long and Tigers were soon level after multiple phases set the platform for Manu Tuilagi to find May for the wing's 50th Premiership try.
Ford converted before Hodgson restored the lead for Falcons from the tee, after Luke Hamilton was penalised for killing the ball at the breakdown.
Falcons suffered another blow when flyhalf Hodgson became their third player to be lost to injury just before the half-hour mark, with Juan Pablo Socino coming on in his place.
One of the substitute's first actions was to kick the visitors level again, after Bredon O'Connor was adjudged to have stolen a turnover illegally, with the score remaining 13-13 at the break.
Newcastle were forced to hold firm at the start of the second half with a counter maul to prevent a second try for the hosts, before Tigers had another effort ruled out on 49 minutes by the TMO.
The pressure finally told two minutes later, though, when lock Fitzgerald crashed over down the right-hand side from the fringes of a close-range ruck.
Ford converted once again and then put his team ten points ahead on the hour when he fired over a long-range penalty from the left.
However, Falcons responded by halving the deficit on 70 minutes after a series of pick-and-go drives set up Goneva, who cut inside and powered over for his second try of the night.
That try set up the thrilling finale as Hogg touched down with the last play of the game, before Takulua held his nerve to strike the crucial match-winning conversion.
Tries: May, Fitzgerald
Cons: Ford 2
Pens: Ford 3
Tries: Goneva 2, Hogg
Cons: Hodgson, Takulua
Pens: Hodgson, Socino
Yellow card: Sione Kalamafoni (Leicester Tigers, 77)
Leicester: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Luke Hamilton, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Greg Bateman, 18 Logovi’i Mulipola, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Mike Williams, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Mathew Tait, 23 Jonah Holmes.
Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Michael Young, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Gary Graham, 6 Mark Wilson (captain), 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Calum Green, 3 Scott Wilson, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Sam Lockwood.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Rob Vickers, 18 Trevor Davison, 19 Will Witty, 20 Ryan Burrows, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Juan Pablo Socino, 23 Alex Tait.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Adam Leal
TMO: Stuart Terheege