Newcastle Falcons showed no shortage of fight at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Sunday but were ultimately second-best as Leicester Tigers took a physical Gallagher Premiership encounter.
The hosts led 16-0 at the break and withstood a rallying Falcons effort to hold on for the win, the Falcons’ focus now turning to Europe as they head to Ospreys in Challenge Cup action.
Leicester enjoyed the early dominance and earned their due rewards on 12 minutes with the first try of the game, flanker Hanro Liebenberg ploughing over down the left with George Ford adding the conversion.
It seemed to spark the Falcons into life, Joel Hodgson’s cross-field kick almost putting Ben Stevenson away down the left only for Leicester to bundle the ball into touch.
The resulting lineout saw Newcastle turn over the ball in prime attacking position, Stevenson again attacking down the left but the TMO ruling him to have put a foot in touch in the act of scoring in the corner.
Tigers responded with a penalty from Ford on 26 minutes following a line-out infringement on the left-hand side of the field, Newcastle striving to bounce back with some improved field position but still not finding a way to turn pressure into points.
Ford’s second penalty extended the home side’s lead to 13-0 on 35 minutes when the England international chipped one over from in front following an offside, the Tigers failing to make a close-range line-out count shortly after as they conceded an obstruction infringement.
But the hosts did manage to add to their tally with the final play of the half, Ford striking a penalty from 40 metres out on the right-hand side to secure a 16-0 interval lead.
Newcastle began the second half with no shortage of energy, Mark Wilson and Stevenson both making incursions, while Jamie Blamire’s enthusiasm in defence saw the hooker earning a jackal penalty for his side.
Jasper Wiese and George Martin were sent to the sin bin as Falcons enjoyed a sustained period of red-zone pressure, and they finally earned their first points of the afternoon when Will Welch scored from a close-range pick-and-go between the posts.
Brett Connon added the simple conversion, but Leicester kept chipping away through Ford’s fourth penalty as the England man slotted from 45 metres out.
The visitors kept battling in search of further points, Kyle Cooper and Luther Burrell among the players breaking the line as they camped themselves in the home half, but the scores just weren’t forthcoming as Leicester’s rearguard held tight.
Tigers themselves had a try ruled out by the TMO when Freddie Steward scored on the back of an earlier off-the-ball hit, but managed to erase that disappointment when Charlie Clare dotted down from a maul in the right corner.
Sam Stuart replied with a try from a tap-and-go, but the gap by that stage was too wide to bridge.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 George Wacokecoke, 13 Pete Lucock, 12 Luther Burrell (Morgan Passman, 69), 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Joel Hodgson (Brett Connon, 56), 9 Louis Schreuder (Sam Stuart, 63); 1 Adam Brocklebank (Kyle Cooper, 58), 2 Jamie Blamire (George McGuigan, 49), 3 Jon Welsh (Mark Tampin, 12), 4 Darren Barry (Philip van der Walt, 59), 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Will Welch, 7 Mark Wilson (captain), 8 Callum Chick.
Scorers - Tries: Will Welch, Sam Stuart. Conversions: Brett Connon.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Harry Potter (Guy Porter, 64), 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Kini Murimurivalu, 10 George Ford, 9 Richard Wigglesworth; 1 Ellis Genge (Luan de Bruin, 69), 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 3 Dan Cole (Joe Heyes, 49), 4 Harry Wells, 5 Calum Green, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Tommy Reffell, 8 Jasper Wiese.
Scorers - Tries: Hanro Liebenberg, Charlie Clare. Conversions: George Ford 2. Penalties: George Ford 4.
Referee: Karl Dickson.
Steward, Potter, Moroni, Kelly, Murimurivalu, Ford, Wigglesworth, Genge, Youngs, Cole, Wells, Green, Liebenberg, Reffell, Wiese
Replacements Clare, de Bruin, Heyes, Henderson, Martin, van Poortvliet, McPhillips, Porter
Tait, Wacokecoke, Lucock, Burrell, Stevenson, Hodgson, Schreuder, Brocklebank, Blamire, Welsh, Barry, Robinson, Welch, Wilson, Chick
Replacements McGuigan, Cooper, Tampin, Collett, Van Der Walt, Stuart, Connon, Passman
referee: Karl Dickson
assistant: Greg MacDonald
assistant: Wayne Falla
TMO: Rowan Kitt