Tigers hit top spot with big win
September 21, 2013
Leicester scrum-half Blaine Scully spots a gap in the Newcastle defence
© Getty Images
Leicester moved to the top of the Aviva Premiership with a 31-6 victory over Newcastle Falcons at Welford Road on Saturday.
The Tigers made it an uncomfortable return for former player and boss Dean Richards with a convincing bonus point victory. It was Richards's first visit to Leicester for five years following the 'Bloodgate' scandal which earned him a three-year ban, and his first as Newcastle's director of rugby.
But champions Leicester were much too strong for the side promoted to the Aviva Premiership last season and won comfortably with tries from Jordan Crane, Graham Kitchener, Blaine Scully, Dan Bowden and Thomas Waldrom. Former Newcastle fly-half Toby Flood kicked two conversions, his replacement Owen Williams one, while in reply Falcons fly-half Rory Clegg slotted a penalty and a drop goal.
International trio Flood, Ben Youngs and Manu Tuilagi returned from injury for Leicester, who gave debuts to two summer signings, American full-back Blaine Scully and flanker Jamie Gibson. Newcastle made two changes in the front row, bringing in former Leicester prop Kieran Brookes and hooker Rob Vickers, while James Fitzpatrick came in at inside centre.
Newcastle's only victory at Welford Road came in 1997, Richards's 314th and last game for the Tigers before he took over as director of rugby and won two Heineken Cups and four Premiership titles. And he would not have been impressed with the way his side set about changing that poor record at Leicester's home ground for they were 12-0 down after 14 minutes having conceded two tries and made little impression on the Tigers defence.
No.8 Crane got the first, a simple run-in on the left wing after Leicester had twice turned down chances to kick at goal. From the second line-out and drive they stormed the Falcons line before working the blindside for Crane to score a try which Flood failed to convert.
Lock Kitchener got the second after fantastic work by Tuilagi, who smashed through the first line of defence, leaving two forwards, Will Welch and Carlo del Fava, sprawled on the ground, and dragged several more players into the 22 before putting Kitchener under the posts. Flood converted.
Clegg pulled three points back for Newcastle with a 26th-minute penalty and then six minutes later he dropped a goal set up by a fabulous break by lock Dominic Barrow who might have created a try had he seen Welch steaming up on his outside.
Newcastle's joy at being back in the game lasted just a minute for, after a line-out, Tuilagi handed off fullback Alex Tait before putting Scully over for Leicester's third try which Flood failed to convert.
Leicester winger Vereniki Goneva thought he was over in the 47th minute but was pulled back by the referee for a forward pass. The Falcons' scrum was then marched backwards but number eight Chris York brilliantly turned defence into attack with a barnstorming break out of his 22 down the left touchline.
Leicester earned a bonus point with their fourth try in the 52nd minute thanks to Kitchener who straightened the line and burst through a tackle before putting centre Dan Bowden over to make it 24-6. Flood converted.
Leicester's fifth try came 11 minutes from time after intense pressure on the Newcastle line, the impressive Waldrom getting the touchdown after a line-out and drive. Replacement fly-half Williams converted. Leicester winger Adam Thompstone was sin-binned in the 77th minute for a deliberate knock-on as Newcastle launched a desperate bid for a try.
Leinster assistant coach Paul Burke reserved special praise for Tuilagi's contribution to his side's second win of the campaign. Burke said: "The break he made for (Graham) Kitchener's try was outstanding. It shows how immense he can be, and how strong he is.
"It was Manu's first game since the Lions and he got through 75 minutes and showed how important he is to our team. He got cramp at the end and we took him off as a precaution. You know what he brings to the table, he is a very aggressive player. He will admit he was a bit rusty at times but it was his first hit-out and he will be better for that performance.
"There are not many players in world rugby who can do what Manu does. He is very important to our team and it's important we get him up to speed. We have got a big six weeks coming up."
Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards believes his side will learn from the experience. He said: "We came here with a lot of young boys who did not have the experience Leicester have. If you look at their starting line-up and their bench, it's not a bad squad, is it?
"We came here with no worries and there were positives to come out of it. Players like Dom Barrow, Scott Wilson, Joel Hodgson, Will Welch and Mark Wilson have played a reasonable amount of rugby but not always at this level. You could not go anywhere else other than here to gain that experience. It's fantastic.
Leicester's Manu Tuilagi opts for the direct route © Getty Images
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