Tigers too strong for Falcons
Leicester maintained their grip on fourth place in the Aviva Premiership with a bonus-point 41-18 win over Newcastle at Kingston Park.
Vereniki Goneva scored a try in each half to help the Tigers on their way to victory, with Thomas Waldrom and Pablo Matera also touching down for the visitors and Owen Williams adding 19 points to record a fourth straight win. The match was also significant as it marked the return to action of England centre Manu Tuilagi following a chest muscle injury which had sidelined him since September.
For the Falcons it was a 10th successive defeat, with tries from Noah Cato and Scott Lawson scant consolation.
Tuilagi enjoyed a fairly quiet return to action against the same opponents who he had faced in his last outing, with his outing cut short at 70 minutes when he was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on.
Lee Smith, the Falcons new recruit from rugby league, made an immediate impact on his debut with a 45-metre penalty in the seventh minute when the Tigers crumbled at the scrum.
Williams hit back with a penalty of his own immediately from the restart to level the match but Newcastle hit back with a series of attacks in which Smith and Adam Powell went close before Cato danced through and Phil Godman converted.
Williams cut the lead to 10-6 with his second penalty but most of the action was in the Leicester half until the Tigers suddenly came to life to dominate the remainder of the half.
Ben Youngs took a quick penalty before throwing a long pass out to Blaine Scully who just failed to take it and it was a let off-for Newcastle.
There was another escape when Jordan Crane burst out of the ruck and handed on to Marcos Ayerza. It seemed the prop must score but he was caught on the line and offloaded to Ben Youngs, only for the scrum-half to spill the ball with a try certain.
Williams made it 10-9 in the 33rd minute, but Godman's penalty in the 37th minute made it 13-9.
Newcastle then gifted Leicester a try when three defenders stood off Goneva and the winger chipped ahead and scored deep in the corner to give the Tigers a 14-13 lead at the break.
It was quickly 20-13 through two penalties from Williams, the second from 50 metres as the Tigers destroyed the Newcastle scrum.
That slow start to the second half could have proved costly for Newcastle but they came back at Leicester and a yellow card for Ben Youngs for a deliberate knock-on in the 56th minute ended with Lawson scoring in the corner and the Falcons were back in the game at 20-18 down.
Tuilagi made his first real impact with a blasting run down the left and it looked to have made a try for Scully only for play to be brought back for a forward pass.
Newcastle could only make a short touch from the scrum and the Tigers drove the line-out and Goneva came on the inside for his second try, converted by Williams.
Waldrom then burst through for another converted try to put the game beyond Newcastle's reach.
Right at the death, Matera wriggled through from a line-out drive to clinch the try bonus point and Toby Flood, on for Williams, converted.