Goode shines as Tigers tear Falcons apart

Leicester 83 - Newcastle 10
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The Independent Online

If the anti-blood sport brigade found the gathering of four fox hunts in Melton Mowbray yesterday morning upsetting, they would have run a country mile from the ruthless antics of the Tigers in another part of Leicestershire.

If the anti-blood sport brigade found the gathering of four fox hunts in Melton Mowbray yesterday morning upsetting, they would have run a country mile from the ruthless antics of the Tigers in another part of Leicestershire.

With Andy Goode as principal horn-blower, the Prem-iership leaders rampaged to 11 tries and a record league win. The Falcons from Newcastle were the ones mercilessly preyed upon.

Goode's presence among eight Leicester players in a 30-man England squad preparing for Ireland next weekend has prompted talk that he might replace Sale's Charlie Hodgson at fly-half, or perhaps Jason Robinson at full-back if the latter is moved to the wing.

Goode could hardly have filled in a more convincing application form for the goal-kicker's job, with an all-successful 11 conversions and two penalties. The one thing Leicester's coach, John Wells, does not want is for Goode to be taken to Dublin to sit on the bench - the Tigers have a Premiership date at Northampton on Saturday.

"If you want a guy to kick goals, Andy is the best around at the moment," said Wells. Of course, the man normally favoured with that description, Jonny Wilkinson, is out of action, and was a mere water- carrier here among several injured stars sorely missed by Newcastle.

Extraordinarily, the visitors led 7-3 after 25 minutes, with a converted try by Mark Mayerhofler in reply to Goode's opening penalty. But Leicester had a bonus point for four tries in the bag by half-time, two of them from Ollie Smith, who convincingly pressed his own international claims at outside-centre before pressing some ice to a tight hamstring after he was withdrawn from the fray as a precautionary measure.

One suspects that if Andy Robinson, the England coach, could call on anyone he liked, he would start with two Leicester forwards, Martin Johnson and Neil Back, plus their Australian backs coach, Pat Howard. They were as much the architects of this rout as Goode, the Shane Warne lookalike whose kicking figures spoke of New-castle's bad-luck afternoon.

Any devil's advocate would argue that Goode's kicking out of hand can go awry under pressure - case study, Biarritz away this season - and he sliced a few in the early stages here. Thereafter, the positional luxuries served up by Leic-ester's pack would have been to the liking of any fly-half.

Newcastle rested Jamie Noon, England's outside-centre against France last week, to save him for Dublin duty, which was indicative of how much chance they thought they had of winning this match. On the wrong end of seven Tigers tries, including two for Leon Lloyd, in the second half, Newcastle's director of rugby, Rob Andrew, said: "Once we got behind there were no experienced players to hold it together."

Austin Healey came off his wing to register Leicester's third try after 27 minutes and Newcastle's midfield defence was repeatedly found wanting, to the obvious discomfort of Mathew Tait, the youngster discarded by England so publicly and painfully.

Tom May kicked a penalty for Newcastle with 40 minutes gone, but his effort had all the arresting force of a paper cup under the wheels of a juggernaut. There was time before the interval for Smith to get the second of his tries, and Goode could chip over his second penalty.

Smith, all pace and poise, cut a simple path through from first-phase scrum ball near the Newcastle 22 - itself a product of an overcooked kick by Mark Wilkinson which went dead.

The more celebrated Wilkinson Jnr must have been tempted to pull his beany hat down over his eyes from then on.

Leicester: S Vesty; L Lloyd, O Smith (S Rabeni, 41), D Gibson, A Healey; A Goode, S Bemand (H Ellis, 70); G Rowntree (J Rawson, 50), G Chuter (J Buckland, 50), D Morris, M Johnson, L Deacon (W Johnson, 5), H Tuilagi (L Moody, 55), M Corry, N Back.

Newcastle: T Flood; T May, M Tait, M Mayerhofler, M Stephenson (O Phillips, 61); M Wilkinson, J Grindal (L Dickson, 50); I Peel (capt), M Thompson, M Ward, L Gross (C Hamilton, 50), G Parling, M McCarthy, S Sititi (P Dowson, 61), C Harris.

Referee: T Spreadbury (Gloucestershire).

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