Guy Thompson scored two tries as Leicester Tigers earned a 27-22 victory at Newcastle Falcons on Friday evening.
Tigers looked in control as they led 13-0 on the half-hour following Jonny May’s 11th Premiership try of the season as they enjoyed the bulk of possession and field position. But two tries in three minutes brought Falcons right back into it and it was the visitors who were happy to hear the half-time whistle from referee Wayne Barnes with a one-point lead at 12-13.
An interception try from Thompson early in the second half stretched the advantage to eight points but Sonatane Takulua scored again to trim that to a single point once more and then kicked them in front at 22-20 with Mike Williams in the sin bin.
Thompson added his second of the night and then played his full part in a big defensive effort with Falcons on the Tigers line in the last minute to secure the four points.
With Tigers just five points ahead of bottom-of-the-table Newcastle at kick-off in this Round 19 clash, this was a big game in the context of the Gallagher Premiership season.
Matt Toomua continued at full-back for Tigers in the absence of Telusa Veainu, Jonah Holmes and George Worth, while Gareth Owen joined Manu Tuilagi in midfield following Kyle Eastmond’s injury in defeat against Exeter in Round 18. Jake Kerr came into the front row as Tom Youngs started a three-game suspension.
Tigers won the corresponding fixture 30-13 last season with tries from Veainu, May and Ben Youngs, but Falcons won the return at Welford Road in Round 21 as they sealed a place in the Premiership semi-finals.
Led out by skipper Ford in the club’s white alternate kit in front of a near-capacity crowd at a chilly and blustery Kingston Park, the fly-half gave Tigers a 3-0 lead almost straight from kick-off.
Toby Flood’s kick-off landed directly into touch and when the scrum on halfway went down, Ford landed his penalty.
Two long kicks from Ford and two cheeky kicks in behind the defence from Toomua gave Tigers a chance to keep the pressure on their hosts and although Ford then saw a drop-goal attempt charged down, the visitors stayed on the ball until Falcons gathered in defence, though they lost Flood to a head knock in the process.
The opening try from May – who joined the league’s top 10 all-time scorers last weekend – came after a superb run from Guy Thompson on the right. His offload found the wing and he worked his way clear in restricted space on the right touchline and stepped in to score. Ford added the extras to make it 10-0 on 18 minutes.
Falcons’ best opportunity of the opening quarter followed with a line-break from replacement Brett Connon but strong work in defence pushed play back towards halfway.
A scrum penalty gave Ford a chance to push play to within 10 metres of the tryline but Falcons defended the lineout and then stopped the Tigers out wide.
Flood had just returned from an HIA when he caught a Ford up-and-under kick and a simultaneous tackle from Mike Williams which brought another Tigers penalty 25 metres out. Ford added the kick to go past 500 Premiership points in Leicester colours and make it 13-0.
His next sight of goal came after referee Barnes pulled up Falcons at a scrum and the free-kick became a penalty when prop Rodney Ah You pushed Ellis Genge. Ford, though, struck the post with the kick and Josh Matavesi kicked clear.
Falcons finally got on the board with their first incisive attack and then quickly added a second in the period just before half-time.
First, a 50-metre run from Simon Hammersley ended with George McGuigan popping a pass for Harris to score. And, after adding the conversion, scrum-half Sonatane Takulua ran in the second after smart work from a scrum on halfway by Mark Wilson and wing Niki Goneva. Takulua’s conversion, though, drifted just wide with the teams just one point apart at the break.
The second half opened with a kicking duel from half-back and full-back plus some big hits in defence from the Falcons before a mix-up at a lineout brought a penalty in the hosts’ favour.
But after defending just inside their own half, Tigers got the breakthrough with a try from Thompson, picking off a flat pass from Flood and running clear 60 metres to score. Ford added the kick to make it 12-20 on 49 minutes.
Flood, though, punished some indiscipline on the floor by Tigers with a penalty into the left-hand corner and then saw Mike Williams sin-binned as the maul was brought down just short of the tryline.
Falcons elected for a scrum at the resulting penalty and celebrated a try when Takulua picked up and reached to the line. He pulled his conversion left of the posts, but the referee called for a re-take as May had moved off the line – as he did in the first half at an earlier attempt. This time he added the two points to make it 19-20 approaching the hour mark.
It led to a nervous period in defence as Falcons recycled ball but spilled possession and some strong work in defence from Will Spencer ended the threat.
Tatafu Polota-Nau replaced Kerr in the front row and Ben White entered the action at scrum-half around the hour, but a call from referee Barnes for a no-arms tackle on Flood gave the hosts the chance to go in front for the first time on 64 minutes, Takulua making it 22-20 from 25 metres out.
Williams returned to the field, Tigers having conceded 10 points with 14 men, as the visitors looked for a big finish.
Toomua’s clever kick down the right just beat May, though Falcons got the final touch to give Tigers the throw-in. Polota-Nau’s thumping run off the back almost found the whitewash but Tigers retained ball and Thompson’s quick thinking led to his second try of the evening.
Ford’s conversion made it 22-27 with 69 minutes gone on the clock, though the home crowd did not appreciate seeing him ticking the clock down before adding the kick.
Brendon O’Connor made a big intervention after replacing Williams as he won turnover ball but the offload bounced forward and Falcons had the scrum.
Tuilagi was replaced by Matt Smith, making his 150th Premiership appearance, and he was straight in the action as Tigers broke out of defence and thought they’d scored again through May on the right. The whistle went, though, for obstruction by Genge as Hammersley leapt for the cross kick from Ford.
Falcons returned to Tigers territory and went through 20-plus phases of possession before earning a penalty on the right. Flood kicked to the corner and, when they went to the front of the lineout, Falcons almost reached the line but Tigers hit hard and wrapped up the maul with two minutes left on the clock.
The scrum had to be reset on the Tigers line but they were penalised at the second attempt and were then blown for offside in front of the posts. But the defence stood up again and wrapped up ball as Ford booted the ball off the field to seal the win.
The Tigers squad, led by skipper George Ford, head around the Kingston Park pitch to thank the travelling fans for their huge support this evening. Thank you to each and every supporter who made the trip!
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
A huge thank you to every member of the #TigersFamily who made the trip to Newcastle for this evening's crunch-match, and to those of you who followed along at home.
We'll see you again at Welford Road on Saturday, April 27 (3.00pm) for the visit of Bristol Bears.
FULL TIME | 22-27
TIGERS WIN! We survive a late surge from Falcons to seal the win at Kingston Park. Well done, boys!
Guy Thompson gets his hands to the ball and survives the clear out, and Barnes blows the whistle in Leicester's favour. Tigers WIN!
Falcons have the advantage after the Leicester line comes up just a split second early.
SCRUM PENALTY TO FALCONS
Dan Cole can't quite believe it as the Tigers scrum is penalised. Falcons tap and go...
Both teams go down at the scrum, so the clock is stopped while we reset. Just over 90 seconds remaining in this game.
The home side set up the maul, but they are stopped short of the line with some stout Tigers defence. Barnes pauses play...
NEWCASTLE HAMMER THE LINE
The home side are hammering the Leicester line in the far corner, making a few centimetres here and there to creep forward. The Tigers forwards kill the ball on the ground, and we'll restart with a lineout just beyond the five-metre line.
FALCONS SPREAD IT WIDE
Newcastle are trying everything, here, running it from their own half. But they're meeting some mammoth Tigers tackles, and the line holds strong.
Sam Aspland-Robinson joins the fray in place of Gareth Owen, while Harry Wells replaces Will Spencer.
TIGERS THINK THEY'RE OVER
Olowofela breaks down the left wing,offloads to Ford who kick passes for Smith. Tigers gather on the floor and the ball makes it out to Jonny May on this right hand side, but we're brought back for a Leicester infringement.
SMITH ONTO THE FIELD
Matt Smith is onto the field for his 150th Premiership appearance as he replaces Manu Tuilagi.
FALCONS WORK THE PHASES
The home side work the ball up the field through their runners, with Ford putting in a big hit on Goneva on the far side. Tigers strip the ball a couple of phases later, but O'Connor's pass is slightly forward and we'll have a Newcastle scrum.
Ford takes his full 90 seconds from the tee and adds the extras. Tigers lead 27 points to 22.
TIGERS TRY AWARDED
After consulting with his TMO, Waynes Barnes awards the try after Guy Thompson crashes over.
BARNES CONSULTS HIS TMO
Tigers take the ball from the lineout, and after a couple of phases it's Brendon O'Connor who crashes over. Barnes hasn't seen a grounding, so we'll head back to the TMO...
Brendon O'Connor is on for Mike Williams in the Tigers back row.
QUICK PLAY FROM JONNY
Jonny May chases his own kick down the right-hand touchline, and the Falcons defender is forced to kick the ball into touch. Tigers will have a throw on the five-metre line.
WILLIAMS RETURNS FROM THE SIN BIN
Mike Williams is back on the field after serving his 10 minutes in the bin.
FALCONS SLOT THE PENALTY
Takulua takes three points to put Falcons ahead by two with 15 minutes remaining.
PENALTY TO FALCONS
After checking with his Television Match Official, Wayne Barnes awards the home side a penalty after Genge makes a no arms tackle on Flood. Takulua points to the posts...
WHAT. A. TAKE.
Jonny May stands strong under a high Falcons ball, and takes it under immense pressure from the Newcastle defenders.
Ben White is on at scrum-half in place of Sam Harrison.
Polota-Nau will have his first throw of the match, after Ford gathers the ball and kicks in behidn the Newcastle line.
CHANGE AT HOOKER
Jake Kerr leaves the field, with his place in the front row taken by Tatafu Polota-Nau.
BROKEN FIELD PLAY
This game is just starting to break down a little bit, with both sides trying to run it from either side of halfway. Harrison picks up the ball after a Falcons knock on, before May kicks the advantage away and Hammersley gathers. The full-back knocks on, though, and Tigers will have the scrum.
Olowofela springs into the air to take Ford's restart, but Barnes is on the whistle again, this time penalising Tigers for holding on on the floor. Flood kicks to touch...
Takulua adds the extras and the Falcons are back within one point. Tigers lead 19-20 with almost an hour gone.
FALCONS ADD A THIRD
Tigers initially hold the Falcons short from their scrum, but Takulua has a second bite of the cherry and gets over for the try.
MAUL DEFENCE GOES AWRY
The Tigers pack manage to stop the driving maul from the lineout, but Mike Williams has dragged it down illegally according to Wayne Barnes, and the flanker is shown a yellow card. We'll scrum down.
Ford hoists another kick high for Hammersley, who gathers and offloads to Sinoti. Garteh Owen does really well to stop the electric winger, but Genge is penalised for holding on at the ruck and Falcons kick to Tigers' five-metre line.
Leicester putting in some huge hits in defence as Newcastle string together a real run of phases. Tigers eventually come way with it after Goneva nudges it through, and Ford kicks to touch. And breathe.
Ford nails the extras, and Tigers lead 12-20.
Flood passes into the hands of a grateful Guy Thompson, who gallops in from 60 metres to score Tigers' second try of the evening.
Tigers take the lineout, but a momentary lapse from Sam Harrison sees him spill the ball forward and Newcastle relieve the pressure for the timebeing.
KNOCK ON, SCRUM DOWN
Tigers are adjudged to have knocked on in the tackle, and Falcons have the scrum. The home side come away with their ball, but Toby Flood is offside and George Ford has a kick to touch from the halfway.
BACK IN PLAY
Sinoti finally puts the ball into touch, and Jake Kerr finds his man at the lineout in the form of Mike Fitzgerald.
Both sides look to the air in the opening minute of this second half, but Ford calls the mark after he takes the ball in his 22. Newcastle miss touch with the return.
SECOND HALF KICKS OFF
George Ford gets the second half underway.
HALF TIME | 12-13
Tigers lead by a point at the break at Kingston Park.
Newcastle turn down the kick at goal after Tigers give away a scrum penalty, and we'll reset...
KNOCK ON FOR TIGERS
Guy Thompson goes up to gather the restart, but the ball just eludes him and Barnes judges the ball to be knocked on. Newcastle scrum with about a minute to go.
CONVERSION IS WIDE
Jonny May thinks Takulua has started his run up, so canters over to knock the ball off the tee, but Barnes calls for a reset kick. Takulua misses the kick, so Tigers still lead by one point.
FALCONS ADD ANOTHER
Falcons come away with the ball off a scrum in their 22, and Goneva combines with Takulua to add another.
The Newcastle fly-half adds the two and Falcons are onto the scoreboard. Tigers lead 7-13.
Evan Olmstead is on for John Hardie in the Newcastle back row.
Simon Hammersley gathers a high ball and spots a gap in the Leicester line, before being brought down just short. Falcons recycle and Chris Harris crosses for their first try.
NOT GETTING THAT ONE BACK...
Falcons are put under immense pressure off the lineout, with Jake Kerr making another huge tackle. Takulua kicks to touch, but he doesn't make much ground and kicks onto the roof of the stand. New ball, please...
AH YOU HEAD-TO-HEAD WITH GENGE
The game gets back underway with a scrum, and Tigers win the free kick, but Rodney Ah You has a push on his opposite man, Genge, and Tigers are awarded a penalty. Ford lines up for the posts, but the ball hits the post and Falcons try and clear.
Falcons restart well, but find second row Andrew Davidson out on the wing, and the big man knocks on. We'll scrum down on Newcastle's 10-metre line.
The penalty is successful, as Ford adds three more points. Tigers lead 0-13 here at Kingston Park.
BIG HIT FROM TIGERS
Guy Thompson claims the restart, before Ford chips ahead once more. Flood gathers but is bundled backwards and gets pinged on the floor just outside his 22. The Leicster skipper points to the posts...
But Leicester are penalised at the breakdown and Flood misses touch with his first kick after returning to the field. Tigers gather, and chase their ball behind the Falcons try line, where Hammersley touches down for a drop-out.
Toby Flood returns to the field in place of Brett Connon. Meanwhile, Ford has booted the ball deep into his favourite corner once again, and the Tigers pack claim the lineout.
Sam Harrison feeds the ball into the scrum, and Tigers win the advantage immediately. The ball is shipped out to Jonny May, but it just breaks into touch and so we'll come back for the scrum penalty.
FALCONS TRY TO HIT BACK
Simon Hammersley capitalises on a muddled restart, but Jake Kerr puts in a big hit to stop the full-back from breaking the line. Falcons now hammering the away side's 22.
Connon has had enough of trucking up the ball, and kicks the ball through behind Toomua, but the ball runs dead.
George Ford is on target with the kick, and Tigers lead ten points to nil.
MAY POWERS THROUGH
Guy Thompson takes a high ball, breaks the line and then offloads to Jonny May - who powers past three defenders to score!
FALCONS INTO THE GAME
Mark Wilson plucks the ball out of the back of the scrum as the game restarts, and Takulua's kick is straight Matt Toomua. The full-back puts in a high ball, but Newcastle re-gather, and we're now engaged in a bit of kick tennis.
Brett Connon is onto the field as Flood goes for a HIA,
A Newcastle forward charges down Ford's attempted drop kick, to cheers from the home crowd, but as play continues Toby Flood takes an unfortunate knock on the head. Gareth Owen calls to Wayne Barnes to stop the game, though the fly-half is up on his feet to walk off for his HIA.
STUCK IN FALCONS' 22
Barnes pings Tigers at the lineout, but no matter; they win the ball back from the next throw in, and Will Spencer trucks the ball into the Newcastle half before Ford pulls out his surge boot once more.
PRESSURE ON THE FALCONS LINE
Take two for Toomua, who puts another kick through the Falcons line. This time Simon Hammersley gathers...a split second before Jonny May bundles him backwards. Falcons re-gather themselves, and the scrum-half kicks the ball high into the Newcastle sky, making a couple of metres into touch.
Leicester win the lineout, and come away with the ball into midfield. Toomua dinks it through to try and bring Jonny May into the game, but the ball just bobbles into touch. Nice idea, though.
Wayne Barnes blows his whistle in Tigers' favour once again, after a couple of high shots from the Falcons, first on Jordan Olowofela an then on Genge. Ford puts in his big boot once again.
...but the Falcons are pinged at the lineout, and Ford punishes Newcastle with his own rocket of a touch-finder. We're back on the home 22.
FLOOD FOR TOUCH
The home side look to rumble on from a maul, and Tigers are penalised on the floor. We come back for the offence, which Flood kicks to touch inside the Leicester 22.
FIRST POINTS TO TIGERS
...and Ford kicks the first points of the match from the halfway line! Tigers lead by three within two minutes.
STRAIGHT INTO TOUCH
And it's straight into touch from the former Leicester man. We scrum down on the halfway line, and Tigers win the opening penalty. A great start.
KICK OFF AT KINGSTON PARK
Toby Flood gets us underway, with Tigers attacking towards the North Stand in this first half.
George Ford leads his Tigers side out in their white and purple alternate kit onto the artificial pitch, with the Falcons not far behind.
WARM UPS DONE
The Tigers squad disappear up the tunnel having completed their final warm ups...kick off just moments away here at Kingston Park.
CONFIRMED TEAM NEWS
A couple of changes to the team that faced Exeter at Welford Road last week, with Geordan Murphy tweaking his centre partnership and back row, and George Ford captaining the side in the absence of Tom Youngs.
Get up to speed with full team news here (or scroll down on this page).
BIG MATCH PREVIEW
This evening’s match is the 60th time these two clubs have met in their history, with a bit of added spice from the teams’ places in the Premiership table – separated by two places and five points in 10th and 12th.
Read our big match preview here (or scroll down on this page).
WELCOME TO MATCHDAY LIVE!
Good evening and welcome to a typically chilly Kingston Park for Tigers’ Gallagher Premiership clash with Newcastle Falcons.
Follow all of the action LIVE, right here with Matchday Live.