Tuilagi keeps things tight in Leicester's no-frills approach
Newcastle 13 Leicester 24
Saturday 23 April 2011
No Harlem Globetrotters stuff from the Premiership leaders this week – and no last-minute throwing away of victory.
Six days on from their end-to-end, 41-41 draw against Gloucester, and the subsequent kick up the backside from a distinctly unimpressed director of rugby Richard Cockerill, Leicester were more than happy to keep it tight on Tyneside last night, doing not much more than they needed to pick off the victory they required to rubber-stamp a home play-off semi-final.
Last Saturday's try-fest at Welford Road featured a 14-minute hat-trick from Alesana Tuilagi. The Samoan centre was on the scoresheet again last night but the Tigers – minus the rested Toby Flood and Ben Youngs – restricted themselves to just the three in total, Matt Smith and James Grindal also getting in on the act. All of which left Leicester six points clear of Saracens at the top of the table and Newcastle without a bonus point, still just the one point ahead of Leeds at the bottom in the fight to beat the drop.
With a bit of grunt and grind by the Leicester forwards up to the shadow of the home posts, and a minimal piece of acceleration from a close-range tap penalty, Alesana – the elder of the Tuilagi brothers on show – bagged the opening try after a quarter of an hour.
All night Newcastle struggled to get over the gain line against a disciplined Leicester defence but Jimmy Gopperth kept plugging away with his trusty right boot, banging over a second penalty two minutes before half-time. Not that the outlook seemed very bright for the Falcons when wing Smith, teed up by Alesana Tuilagi, barged over for Leicester's second try six minutes into the second half.
Jeremy Staunton's conversion put daylight on the scoreboard for the first time, giving the Tigers a 17-6 advantage, but replacement hooker Rob Vickers fed Tongan centre Tane Tu'ipulotu for a score for the Falcons. Gopperth converted and Newcastle were back in bonus-point territory at 17-13 down. However, with seven minutes left Tom Croft paved the way with a quicksilver break and Grindal dived over for Leicester's third try, leaving his old club without consolation.
Newcastle: Try Tu'ipulotu; Conversion Gopperth; Penalties Gopperth 2. Leicester: Tries A Tuilagi, Smith, Grindal; Conversions Staunton 3; Penalty Staunton.
Newcastle: T Catteick; L Fielden, R Vickerman (G Bobo, 55), T Tu'ipulotu, A Tait; J Gopperth (capt), C Pilgrim (M Young, 48); J Golding (G Shiells, 74), M Thompson (R Vickers, 48), E Murray (K Brookes, 55), F Levi (T Swinson, 48), A Van der Heijden, M Wilson, W Welch ( Agray, 61), A Hogg (L Eves, 70).
Leicester: S Hamilton; M Smith (H Aguila 74), T Tuilagi, A Allen, A Tuilagi; J Staunton, J Grindal (S Harrison, 78); M Ayerza (B Stankovich, 78), G Chuter (R Hawkins, 75), M Castrogiovanni (D Cole, 65), E Slater (C Green, 78), G Skivington, T Croft, C Newby (capt), T Waldrom (B Woods, 75).
Referee: T Wigglesworth (RFU).
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