Tigers down brave Falcons
September 19, 2009
Leicester's Jeremy Staunton is wrapped up by the Newcastle defence
© Getty Images
Leicester ended Newcastle's unbeaten start to this season's Guinness Premiership with a 15-6 victory in their clash at Welford Road.
Five penalties from the boot of fly-half Jeremy Staunton enabled the Tigers to celebrate the opening of their new Caterpillar Stand with a victory but it was far from a vintage performance from the defending champions in front of a record home crowd of 24,000.
A brave display from the Falcons frustrated the hosts for much of the game but just two penalties from man of the match Rob Miller could not prevent his side from slipping to another defeat at Welford Road - a ground where they have not won for 12 years.
The home side dominated in terms of territory and possession but for the third successive game they failed to notch a try. In doing so the Tigers set a new club record with their try-drought stretching back to their victory over London Irish in last season's Premiership finale.
The four hours and 19 minutes of competitive action they have now played without scoring a try is 42 minutes longer than the side's previous worst barren spell 10 years ago.
A strong defensive display from the Falcons, and the Tigers' lack of a clinical edge, kept the visitors in touch and with the impressive Miller pulling the strings and Tongan-born centre Tane Tu'ipulotu also catching the eye, they conjured several chances in the first half but were unable to sustain their attacking endeavours.
Staunton opened the scoring with a penalty after Newcastle had drifted off-side in defence but his effort was cancelled out soon after by Miller who had been promoted from the bench on the morning of the game after big-money signing Jimmy Gopperth failed a fitness test on a foot injury.
Staunton added two more penalties to his personal tally midway through the half and took the hosts out to a 12-3 lead with the last kick of the first half. The pressure began to tell on the Falcons after the break with a collapsed scrum handing Staunton a chance to extend his side's lead but he pushed his kick wide of the posts.
Miller offered his side further hope with his second penalty after Leicester had been caught offside but they were forced into a rearguard action for the remainder of the game.
The Tigers began to turn the screw as the game entered the hour mark with Croft diving over to score but his try was cancelled out due to the fact that the ball had deflected into the England flanker's hands off the back of referee Andrew Small.
Undeterred the Tigers pushed on again and a quick tap penalty from scrum-half Harry Ellis gave Staunton a scoring chance but he lost the ball in contact with the score eventually ruled out by the Television Match Official.
Sensing a match-defining score the Tigers opted to kick to the corner for a lineout when the Falcons were penalised again soon after - this time for collapsing a maul. But they were denied again with the Newcastle pack preventing the grounding of the ball after a powerful drive from the Leicester forwards.
It was left to Staunton to keep the scoreboard ticking over with his fifth penalty of the game giving the Tigers some more breathing room after Falcons lock James Hudson was penalised for a high tackle on centre Anthony Allen.
The Tigers' lack of cohesion continued to blunt their attacking intentions but the Falcons creative shortcomings meant they were never in danger of losing their grip on the game.
Munster, No.8s, the imploding Australians, wonderful Glasgow and Lancaster's dilemma - it is Monday Maul time
As Ewen McKenzie exits stage left, the ARU remains under huge pressure, with CEO Bill Pulver feeling the brunt of Australian rugby's displeasure, Greg Growden writes
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the remarkable events in Brisbane and the first round of the European Rugby Champions Cup
Following Saturday's shock announcement, we look at the highs and the lows of Ewen McKenzie's brief stint as Wallabies coach.