Leicester Tigers made it three away wins in a row in the Aviva Premiership with a 30-13 victory over Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park on Sunday to move into third place in the league table.
Tigers led 14-3 with less than 20 minutes gone as the Falcons welcomed a first sell-out crowd in nine years, with the large travelling support cheering tries from Telusa Veainu and Ben Youngs.
But Falcons showed they were not going to be shrugged off as former Tigers wing Vereniki Goneva provided a try on the stroke of half-time, cutting the gap to just four points.
That lead was down to a single point in the opening moments of the second half after a penalty from Toby Flood, but three penalties from George Ford and a 10th try of the season for Jonny May ensured the four points for Matt O’Connor’s men.
Both teams went into the game with four wins and two defeats in the opening rounds of the season, but with Falcons starting the weekend in fourth place – two in front of Tigers – by virtue of their bonus points haul.
Matt Smith made his 150th starting appearance in a Tigers shirt, brought into the midfield alongside Mathew Tait following injury to Gareth Owen and Matt Toomua in the win over Castres a week earlier, while Newcastle captain Will Welch led out the hosts in his 200th appearance.
Referee Wayne Barnes was in charge of his 190th Premiership match, equalling the all-time record of Chris White.
Former Tigers skipper Toby Flood got the game under way for Falcons and the hosts enjoyed multiple phases of play in the opening minutes, though wasted an opportunity when No8 Lili Latu misplaced his pass on the left just as a gap had opened in the Tigers defence.
Tigers repelled another chance from the first penalty of the afternoon, Falcons prodding down the left touchline but unable to execute in the lineout.
The visitors took 10 minutes to gain possession in Falcons territory but made it count with a fifth try of the season from Veainu.
With referee Barnes playing advantage from a lineout, Tigers opted to spin the ball wide, with Mathew Tait finding Veainu and he danced round two defenders to score. Ford added the conversion for a seven-point lead.
But Falcons had an immediate chance to respond when Ellis Genge was whistled for a late tackle on Flood near halfway. Flood recovered to chip over the kick and get the hosts on to the scoreboard.
Nick Malouf showed smart work in defence as Falcons worked on overlap on the left, the Australian stepping in to make the tackle with two men free on the outside, and Tigers quickly turned defence into attack with a second try on 18 minutes,.
Veainu was again involved, breaking the line 25 metres out and then popping a pass for Ben Young to run in to score. Ford’s kick made it 14-3 to the visitors.
Falcons threatened again from the restart, capitalising on loose ball after a knock-on by Mapapalangi, but Brendon O’Connor showed his strength at the breakdown to win a penalty and Tigers were able to clear.
The pace was unrelenting on the artificial surface, with both teams choosing to run the ball rather than kick, and Tigers made their next attack on the back of successive penalties for high tackles in the Newcastle midfield. But, after setting a platform from a lineout, Tigers were unable to add further points when Veainu knocked on.
Another attack, this time with May and Brendon O’Connor carrying strongly, almost brought another opening but Falcons managed to win turnover ball near their own line.
The Falcons defence was being tested, but they weathered the storm and ended the half with their opening score, provided by former Tigers wing Vereniki Goneva.
After phases of play in the Tigers 22, the chance looked to have gone with another loose pass on the left, but Newcastle regained ball and Goneva exchanged passes with Alex Tait to break the cover defence and score. Flood converted to cut the gap to 10-14 with the final action of the half.
Ford got the second half under way and Falcons were immediately on to the attack with a stunning break by Sinoti Sinoti on the left which ended with a penalty and Flood took the chance to add three points to the board and make it 13-14.
Tigers thought they’d added an immediate response when O’Connor dived into the right-hand corner, but referee Barnes confirmed he had dropped the ball in trying to dot down as he ran out of space on the touchline.
Genge timed his run on to a pass from Youngs perfectly as Tigers built phases again, but it was Flood who brought his 30-metre run to a halt and Falcons then won a penalty almost under their own posts as Youngs tried to wriggle free.
Flood then looked to provide a chance for Falcons with a penalty down the left but, despite a well-worked move from the lineout, Tigers snuffed out the danger with more good work from Malouf and then O’Connor who won another penalty as he got over the ball at the breakdown.
Ford brought some breathing space with a penalty from halfway on 53 minutes – his side’s first points since the 18th minute.of the game – as he made it 13-17.
A burst from hooker Kyle Cooper, in the thick of the action all afternoon, had the home crowd on its feet and Leicester had to work hard as Falcons worked the ball to the right and Goneva was held up over the tryline.
The five-metre scrum brought a penalty for Tigers as Dan Cole and company pushed their rivals back and Ford was able to clear up towards halfway.
But Falcons came back again and Ford had to make a tackle on flanker Mark Wilson as he threatened to break to the tryline.
Tigers had to kick clear to relieve the pressure in their own half but weren’t able to build any phases as the lead remained at four points with the game into its final quarter.
More impressive work from O’Connor almost found a gap on the left, but Falcons scrambled back to close the door as Tigers recycled again.
Tigers introduced Sam Harrison, Harry Thacker and Luke Hamilton on 65 minutes and their first involvement brought a scrum penalty 30 metres out. Ford called for the tee and made it 20-13 with his second penalty of the day.
He had another chance with just three more minutes played as replacement Ally Hogg was whistled for a high tackle on Dom Barrow near halfway. And he made no mistake as he stretched the lead to 10 points with 10 minutes to go.
And the travelling support had even more to cheer a minute later when Ford’s precision crosskick found May on the left and he raced clear off Goneva to score in the corner. Ford nailed the conversion from out wide to make it 30-13 and push Tigers towards the victory, their 14th in the last 15 contests between the teams in Premiership rugby.
Adam Thompstone made his seasonal debut as a replacement for Mat Tait as the game restarted and his first involvement was a tackle on Sinoti which ended a promising move for the Falcons in attack and he then won a penalty on halfway to allow Tigers to go again in attack on the right.
Thacker almost reached the tryline as quick recycling had Falcons on the back foot, and the game ended with two penalties in the right-hand corner, but the home side managed to close out any further addition to the scoreline.
Tigers return to Welford Road on Saturday to start the defence of their Anglo-Welsh Cup title. Gloucester Rugby are the visitors for a 3pm kick-off. Tickets are available now.
Thank you for your support
A huge thank you for your support in the stadium and at home.
Tigers take the spoils
Tigers win on the road again. A cracking performance in defence and in attack as Tigers take four points home with them after a 30-13 victory at Kingston Park.
Penalty against Tigers
Tigers are pinged for holding on, and the chance goes away.
Time is up
This penalty lineout is the last play ...
Kitchener was taken in the air, but Ford's grubber was charged down. Play comes back for the penalty ...
Tigers are hunting the bonus
It's all Tigers in the closing stages. Thacker has gone close, and now they have a penalty for offside ...
Kicking masterclass from Ford
100 per cent from the tee, and now pinning Falcons back in their 22, Ford's kicking has been exemplary.
Thompstone on for Tigers
Great to see Adam Thompstone on to make his first appearance of the season. Welcome back Thommo.
More on May's try
Ford picked out May with an exquisite chip to the left flank. May stepped round Goneva as if he was not there and powered his way to the corner for his 10th try of the season.
Ford kicks the extras
Ford maintains his 100 per cent record from the tee with a beauty from the left.
Another brilliant try for Tigers and another brilliant try for May! That should be the game now for the visitors.
Prop replacements for Tigers
Genge and Cole are off after another cracking shift. Bateman and Cilliers on for a crucial last 10 minutes.
It's brilliant from Ford
The Tigers fly-half strikes his kick, close to halfway and slightly on the angle, superbly. It goes straight through to put Leicester 23-13 ahead.
High tackle penalty
Hogg's first involvement in the game is to tackle Barrow high in midfield. Ford has a huge kick coming up, in distance and in terms of the game.
More replacements for Falcons
Harris, Takulua and Cooper are off for Falcons. Mermoz, Young and Lawson now on.
Ford keeps his cool
Ford makes light of a difficult angle to bang his kick through the posts and move Leicester seven points clear at Kingston Park with 14 minutes remaining.
Cole does his stuff again, and again Tigers get the scrum penalty. Ford calls for the kicking tee ...
H Thacker, Harrison and Hamilton on for Tigers in place of T and B Youngs and Kalamafoni. Hodgson and Hogg on for Flood and Latu.
Game back on
Harris is fine and the game restarts with a scrum, at which Falcons get a free-kick.
Break in play
There's a break in play as Chris Harris receives treatment following a big tackle by Kalamafoni.
Veainu magic in defence
Veainu is alert to Flood's kick through, picks up in the 22, steps past Sinoti and sets up the ruck for Ford to clear.
What a scrum
Just when Tigers needed it, Dan Cole and his forward colleagues produce a devastating scrum to win the penalty and the pressure.
Falcons held up
The home side get up a head of steam, and Tigers struggle to slow their momentum. But Leicester manage to get bodies underneath Goneva and concede the 5m scrum. A huge moment coming up ...
Outstanding from Malouf
The winger snuffs out the threat of an overlap with a big hit on Sinoti, and knocks-on as he does so.
It's a monster kick from Ford
Ford lands a HUGE penalty from right on halfway to put the first points on the board this half for Tigers. They lead 17-13.
Ford thinks he has the wind with him as well. He is lining up a penalty from halfway after Falcons went offside ...
More great work from O'Connor
A lovely backs move from the Falcons allows Takulua to break the Leicester line. But O'Connor, who has been everywhere, wins the holding-on penalty and Ford kicks Tigers into the Newcastle half.
So close for the Tigers
Genge is stopped just short of the line, Tigers recycle but O'Connor spills the ball as he is tackled into touch at the right-hand corner.
Falcons close the gap
Flood scuffs his kick but it has enough on it to go over. Tigers lead by a point.
Strong start for Falcons
The Falcons make a strong start to the second period, with Takulua flying down the left. A late tackle on Flood gives the hosts an early kick at goal.
The second half is underway
George Ford gets us going in the second half.
The teams are back out
Tigers are first back onto the pitch, closely followed by the hosts. It looks like Tigers will have a bit of a breeze at their backs this half, attacking the end to the right.
A nice cup of tea has would be most welcome up in the Kingston Park press box as the temperature begins to drop in Newcastle.
Tigers lead at the break
Tries for Veainu and Ben Youngs give Tigers a 14-10 lead at the break. But the Falcons are dangerous when they get ball in hand, and ex-Tiger Vereniki Goneva scored for the hosts right on half-time to bring them back into the game.
Toby Flood, with the last kick of the half, lands a simple conversion in front of the posts.
Falcons finishing with a flourish
Falcons have Tigers under huge pressure as the half comes to an end. And it's that man Goneva for the hosts. He exchanges passes with Tait and crosses next to the posts.
Ford calms things down
A lovely angled kick into touch from George Ford takes play towards the Falcons 22m and gives the chance for some running repairs.
O'Connor having a stormer
Brendon O'Connor is all over the breakdown, and wins another turnover.
Tigers produce a good defensive set, Tait knocks on and the visitors spread it wide for Malouf to clear.
Falcons' turn to attack
The Falcons have their first attacking opportunity in a while with a scrum on the Leicester 22.
Tigers pinged in the Falcons 22
Nick Malouf is the latest to stress the Falcons defence. But it's a bit rushed from Tigers and they are pinged as captain Youngs goes off his feet.
Tigers turned over
Tigers continue to stress the Falcons defence. But this time May is robbed of the ball as he goes into contact 10m out.
Chance goes away
Kitchener sets up the drive, but Veainu makes his first mistake of a brilliant game so far, and fumbles the pass with men outside.
Tigers to the corner
Another high tackle, and this time Ford kicks Leicester to the corner. Big moment.
Tigers on the attack
A high tackle on Jonny May allows Ford to kick Tigers back into the Falcons 22.
150 starts for Smith
Matt Smith, on his 150th start for Tigers, runs over his old teammate Flood as Tigers continue to enjoy plenty of possession.
Great work from O'Connor
Nick Malouf has been wise to the danger on his flank a couple of occasions, taking man and ball as a hint of an overlap develops. And this time he is supported by Brendon O'Connor, who wins the holding-on penalty.
More on the try
The Tigers attack was a little lateral until Veainu injected some pace, danced past Tait and offloaded to the supporting Youngs, who went over next to the posts untouched.
Ford adds the extras
George Ford has a simple conversion to put Tigers 11 points into the lead early on at Kingston Park.
Another try for the Tigers
Veainu's dancing feet create the try this time, and Ben Youngs finishes. Great stuff.
Falcons on to the scoreboard
Flood's kick just has the range, creeping over the bar to put the first points on the board for Falcons.
Genge on Flood
Ellis Genge welcomes Flood into the game with a big hit, a late one says referee Barnes, and Flood will go for goal.
Ford lands his kick for the maximum seven points and a good start for the Tigers.
They don't need the advantage. Veainu continues his try-scoring form, dancing past Alex Tait and Goneva to score his 5th of the season.
Mapapalangi taken in the air. Tigers will have another penalty if they need it ...
First Tigers penalty
Ford puts his first penalty to within 8m. Chance for Tigers ...
Unhappy home fans
Latu intercepts Ben Youngs's pass from the scrum and charges on but again Barnes has blown for a Tigers free-kick, to the dismay of the home support.
The home fans are on their feet as No8 Nili Latu breaks away but referee Wayne Barnes's whistle has already gone for a clear forward pass by Flood on halfway.
Tigers take the ball
The throw is long and Tom Youngs reads it well. Matt Smith takes Tigers up to the 10m line where they win the penalty.
Tigers face an early test as Flood pumps a penalty towards the left-hand corner ...
Falcons scrum-half Takulua with a strong run down the left but his pass outside goes into touch with numbers inside him.
Toby Flood gets us going, with Tigers defending the end to our right as we type.
Here come the hosts
Followed by the Falcons, who are led out by Will Welch on his 200th appearance for the club.
Here come the Tigers
Led out by captain Tom Youngs, Tigers are first on to the field.
There is lots of red, white and green in the 10,000-capacity crowd. Great support, as always, from the Tigers Family.
It's a full house at Kingston Park for the first time since May 2008 and, despite local transport issues, there is a really good atmosphere in the lead up to kick-off.
Warm-ups are over
The two teams head back to the changing rooms for a final few words ahead of kick-off.
There are some familiar faces to Tigers fans in the Falcons team. Niki Goneva, Toby Flood and Calum Green start for the hosts, Michael Young and Maxime Mermoz are on the bench.
The clocks have gone back and it's now officially winter time ... but thankfully no-one has told the Newcastle weather. It's dry at Kingston Park, with some unthreatening cloud and temperatures around 9C.
The team sheets are in.
Welcome to Kingston Park
Tigers are going through their warm-up at Kingston Park. Kick-off against Newcastle Falcons is 15 minutes away.