Leicester Tigers recorded an eighth win of the Gallagher Premiership season with a 26-12 triumph over Newcastle Falcons at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Sunday.
The Tigers put 16 unanswered points on the board in the first half of the Round 15 contest, with a try from Hanro Liebenberg and the kicking of fly-half George Ford, who was making just his second Premiership appearance of the season.
But the hosts struggled to build a platform for further scores in the second half, conceding a try and also two yellow cards in defence, before a forward drive provided the second try for Charlie Clare in the closing stages.
Harry Potter, in his first start since Round 2, then made valuable ground in the centre of the pitch as play stayed in Falcons territory.
Steward felt the force of a pair of Falcons as he claimed a box-kick just inside his own half, but Ford immediately took play 50 metres back upfield with a diagonal kick to the left-hand corner to force the visitors to play out.
The visitors had to make a change in the front row after losing Jon Welsh to injury before Tigers made a breakthrough.
Jasper Wiese, back from suspension, carried strongly from the base of a scrum and, as ball was recycled, fellow back-rower Liebenberg carried to the line for his second try of the season. Ford’s conversion made it 7-0 on 15 minutes.
Newcastle made their first visit to the Tigers 22 from the restart and they almost produced an immediate response, only for Kelly to tackle Ben Stevenson into touch just as the visiting wing launched himself towards the corner.
Wiese and Genge then carried forcefully in attack to take Tigers towards the posts, but they were stopped by the whistle as Falcons skipper Mark Wilson got over the ball.
After Liebenberg charged down a box-kick on the edge of the Newcastle 22, Tigers lost ball at their own scrum but had a second chance as Falcons were penalised at a lineout and Ford added the kick for a 10-point lead.
Calum Green made a superb catch at the restart before Tait survived an error inside his own 22, dropping high ball backwards but recovering in time to clear.
Strong work from Tommy Reffell forced Falcons into an error as they entered the Tigers 22 before another uncompleted scrum led to words from the referee to the visitors.
The hosts got out of their own half with a big carry in midfield from Kelly which ended with a penalty award and another one quickly followed, this time for offside, allowing Ford to make it 13-0 just a couple of minutes short of half-time.
Potter then chased down the Falcons defence, charging down a kick and making a tackle before referee Dickson awarded a penalty which Ford pushed into the corner. But after setting up a maul, Tigers were whistled for offside and the chance had gone.
Wing Potter had gone too, for a head injury assessment, with Guy Porter taking his place and he was quickly into the game, fielding a clearing kick before Ford launched one of his own towering spirals which put Falcons back under pressure.
Referee Dickson yellow-carded Darren Barry at the breakdown as Tigers kept possession, with Ford bringing the half to a close with a penalty which made it 16-0.
Potter returned to the field for the start of the second half and, although Falcons kicked off one man down after Barry’s yellow card, they almost found a breakthrough as No8 Callum Chick raced through in the centre of the field before being taken down by Liebenberg.
Hodgson had to react quickly to a Tigers attack on the right and Chick was also in the action in defence as he dumped Wiese just as Tigers recycled 10 metres from the tryline.
Wiese was shown a yellow card when the TMO brought the referee’s attention to foul play at a defensive ruck and retribution appeared instant as Falcons attacked the tryline through the forwards but prop Adam Brocklebank was denied as he attempted to dot down.
Penalties mounted up against Tigers defending their own line, with Martin sin-binned within moments of coming off the bench. But they resisted through phase after phase until finally Will Welch got the ball down, a try awarded after a lengthy check between referee and TMO.
Replacement fly-half Brett Connon added the conversion but an immediate penalty near halfway gave Tigers a chance to regroup and Ford took on the kick from just shy of halfway, landing it perfectly to make it 19-7.
Wiese returned from his yellow card and got straight back into the game with a big tackle but Tigers were being starved of possession and pinned in their own half until finally gaining position with a penalty.
They made it count too, with Ford booting play into the right-hand corner, Wiese attacking the line and then Ford putting Steward through to the right of the posts.
As Ford prepared for the conversion, the TMO identified foul play as a defender was played off the ball and Falcons were given the penalty.
The next whistle went to the home side and Ford went play down the right with just under five minutes left and it paid off with Cameron Henderson claiming lineout ball, the forwards gathering around to push towards the whitewash and Clare supplied the score. Ford converted to make it 26-7.
Newcastle added their second try straight from kick-off, getting into the 22 and then scrum-half Sam Stuart darting over from a tap for the game’s final points.