Newcastle Falcons attracted their first sell-out crowd in more than years but endured a day of frustration on Sunday as Leicester Tigers claimed Aviva Premiership victory.
A total of 10,100 supporters packed into Kingston Park Stadium but their team were second-best on the scoreboard despite showing no shortage of effort and energy.
Despite Newcastle offering some early pressure it was the visitors who opened the scoring on 12 minutes when a penalty was kicked to the left corner, play being spun right to Telusa Veainu who stepped inside to dot down.
Ex-Tiger Toby Flood chipped three off the deficit with a well-struck penalty from 45 metres out when Ellis Genge was blown for a late hit, but his side trailed by 11 when Veainu’s inside pass freed England scrum-half Ben Youngs for a run-in, converted again by George Ford.
Strong defence inside their own 22 prevented further concession of points as Tigers were repelled at a pair of close-range driving mauls, Newcastle’s ruck work winning a couple of relieving penalties as Tigers tried to flex their forward muscles.
The Falcons reserved their most enterprising play of the opening period for the very last minute, former Tiger Vereniki Goneva profiting from a fine team move which ended with the Fijian flyer grounding a try down the left.
Flood converted to reduce the half-time arrears to 14-10, and the 60-times-capped fly-half had his side to within a single point when he sent over a 35-metre penalty two minutes after the restart.
Heroic home defence prevented a third Tigers try when Brendon O’Connor was bundled into touch just a whisker away from scoring in the right corner, but their lead was pushed to four on 52 minutes when Ford fired over a penalty from the half-way line.
Newcastle had no intention of lying down and probed repeatedly in the home 22, notably when Kyle Cooper’s line-break and the support of Sonatane Takulua saw them held up over the try-line in the right corner.
Tigers somehow found a relieving penalty at the resulting scrum, the home side pressing hard through repeated line-breaks by Juan Pablo Socino and Mark Wilson, among others, but finding themselves down by seven thanks to Ford’s 65th minute penalty.
It was effectively game over on 72 minutes when Ford’s sublime cross-kick found England team-mate Jonny May for a converted try in the left corner – a day of frustration for the home side and their sell-out crowd.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris (Maxime Mermoz, 66), 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood (Joel Hodgson, 63), 9 Sonatane Takulua (Michael Young, 66); 1 Rob Vickers (Sami Mavinga, 74), 2 Kyle Cooper (Scott Lawson, 66), 3 Jon Welsh (Trevor Davison, 74), 4 Calum Green, 5 Sean Robinson (Will Witty, 66), 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (captain), 8 Nili Latu (Ally Hogg, 63).
Falcons scorers - Tries: Vereniki Goneva. Conversions: Toby Flood. Penalties: Toby Flood 2.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Nick Malouf, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Mathew Tait (Adam Thompstone, 72), 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs (Sam Harrison, 61); 1 Ellis Genge (Greg Bateman, 69), 2 Tom Youngs (captain, Harry Thacker, 61), 3 Dan Cole (Pat Cilliers, 69), 4 Dom Barrow (Harry Wells, 74), 5 Graham Kitchener, 6 Valentino Mapapalangi, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 8 Sione Kalamafoni (Luke Hamilton, 63).
Tigers scorers - Tries: Telusa Veainu, Ben Youngs, Jonny May. Conversions: George Ford 3. Penalties: George Ford 2.
Referee: Wayne Barnes. Attendance: 10,100.
Tait, Goneva, Harris, Socino, Sinoti, Flood, Takulua, Vickers, Cooper, Welsh, Green, Robinson, Wilson, Welch, Latu
Replacements Lawson, Mavinga, Davison, Witty, Hogg, Young, Hodgson, Mermoz
Veainu, Malouf, Smith, Tait, May, Ford, Youngs, Genge, Youngs, Cole, Barrow, Kitchener, Mapapalangi, O'Connor, Kalamafoni
Replacements Thacker, Bateman, Cilliers, Wells, Hamilton, Harrison, Ford, Thompstone
referee: Wayne Barnes
assistant: Peter Allan
assistant: Hamish Smales
TMO: Sean Davey