Tigers win ugly to secure home semi-final
April 22, 2011
Tigers win ugly against Falcons
Leicester secured a home semi-final in the Aviva Premiership with a scrappy 24-13 victory over relegation-threatened Newcastle at Kingston Park on Friday.
The Tigers prevailed in a keenly-contested encounter thanks to tries from Alesana Tuilagi, Matt Smith and James Grindal, with England halfbacks Ben Youngs and Toby Flood given the evening off after some mixed displays in recent weeks.
The Falcons battled throughout but could not match the champions in the game-breaking stakes, with a second-half try from centre Tane Tu'ipulotu not enough to secure a losing bonus-point that could have proved vital in their battle against the drop. Defeat leaves Alan Tait's side level on points with Leeds, but with a game in hand.
Leicester fly-half Jeremy Staunton spurned the first opportunity of the game with a poorly-struck penalty on two minutes, a mistake that Jimmy Gopperth did not repeat 10 minutes later to open the scoring.
The Kiwi fly-half's penalty followed a promising spell for the home side, where a barrelling run from tight-head Euan Murray had placed the Tigers on notice. Unfortunately for the hosts, an over-ambitious offload on their 22 handed Leicester the opening try after a quarter of an hour, Tuilagi taking a quick tap close to the line and crashing over.
Staunton converted from next to the posts and Gopperth soon missed with a scruffy drop-goal attempt after a lineout drive had produced untidy ball just outside the Leicester 22.
Newcastle narrowly survived a scare when the Tuilagi brothers combined on 24 minutes, Manu stabbing a beautiful kick through the Falcons' line for Alesana, only for Gopperth to bring the giant wing to ground metres short.
Staunton landed three points with seven minutes to go before the break, settling his own nerves, but Gopperth was able to snatch them back after Smith illegally impeded Luke Fielden, who had kicked ahead along the touchline.
Fittingly, the half ended with a mistake as Ally Hogg spilled the restart, allowing Leicester one more bite at the cherry. From the ensuing scrum Staunton chipped in behind, with Hogg atoning for his mistake by just beating Manu Tuilagi to the ball in-goal.
The second-half began with further errors from both sides, but Leicester again found the edge through a Tuilagi. This time Manu picked off two Newcastle defenders with a powerful surge before the ball was worked back into midfield. Scott Hamilton combined with Alesana Tuilagi, who put Smith over from close range.
Newcastle's Tom Catterick is smashed by Tom Croft © Getty Images
Staunton converted but another poor kick from the Irish playmaker gave Newcastle a route back into the game. The Falcons kept their composure and worked through the phases, replacement hooker Rob Vickers drawing the remaining defenders and finding Tuipolotu on his outside for a well-worked try.
Leicester were quickly back on the offensive, but Newcastle showed admirable resolve in defence. A break by Anthony Allen put the Tigers on the front foot but after the pack took over when in close range, the attack went astray. Marcos Ayerza was pinged after charging into his own man a metre out, wasting an overlap and allowing Newcastle to clear when awarded a penalty at the ensuing scrum.
Newcastle were unable to build on their great escape however and Thomas Waldrom and Tom Croft soon linked up to put Leicester clear. Waldrom's brilliant footwork opened the door for Croft to stretch his legs and after Allen had carried the ball on, former Newcastle player Grindal popped up to round off the move. Staunton's conversion opened up an 11 point lead but despite their best efforts, Leicester were unable to secure further reward.
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