Premiership: Leicester Tigers 36-17 Newcastle Falcons
|Leicester (12) 36|
|Tries: Goneva 3, Mele|
|Pens: Burns 4 Cons: Burns 2|
|Newcastle (3) 17|
|Tries: Mayhew, Saull|
|Pens: Socino Cons: Socino 2|
A second-half hat-trick from Fiji winger Vereniki Goneva eased Leicester to a comfortable win over Newcastle.
The Tigers led 12-3 at the break thanks to four Freddie Burns penalties with one from Juan Pablo Socino in reply.
The visitors cut the deficit straight after the break through Richard Mayhew before Goneva scored three tries in a 17-minute spell that decided the game.
Replacement scrum-half David Mele added the bonus-point try before Andy Saull was driven over for a late consolation.
It was an unhappy return to Welford Road for former Leicester greats Dean Richards and John Wells as their Newcastle side were blown away by Goneva's second-half try-scoring blitz.
The end result may have been predictable but the hosts had to work hard to breakdown a resilient Falcons outfit.
Burns landed his first penalty in Leicester colours following one of many Manu Tuilagi breaks, before adding a second after an infringement at a scrum.
Socino got the visitors on the board when Jordan Crane offended, and two more Burns penalties put Leicester 12-3 up at the break.
It may have been a try-less first 40 minutes, but it only took 30 seconds for that to change in the second-half when visiting flanker Mayhew was on hand to finish off a kick return after Burns had missed touch with his clearance.
This setback spurred the Tigers into action and Goneva registered his first try of the afternoon when he followed up Tuilagi's barnstorming run and latched onto a loose ball for the simplest of touchdowns.
He had Burns to thank for his second score after the fly-half ghosted through the defence before setting the Fiji winger away to step the last man and cross, Burns adding the extras.
Goneva completed his hat-trick, intercepting a pass five metres from his line to race the length of the field to give Burns the easiest of kicks.
The game was over as a contest but there was still the bonus point to play for and replacement scrum-half, Mele, duly obliged with the home side's fourth try after good work at the base of the scrum by Robert Barbieri.
A converted try from Andy Saull reduced the gap but Newcastle were never able to recover from Goneva's quickfire treble and Leicester coasted to a comfortable win.
Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill:
"Niki Goneva's third try was a bit fortunate but he backed himself and got the interception. It was a 14-pointer. It was seven points either way, and fortunately it went ours.
"I'm happy with the five points, there's lots of work to do but we have some injury issues and it was a potential banana skin.
"I thought we coped well with the cheap try just after half-time. We kept our composure, got back into it and scored the tries. In the first half we were just finding our feet."
Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards:
"For the interception try, Tom Youngs was five yards offside. We had a four on two there and if we had been allowed to nail that rather than the referee and the touch judge missing the offside it might have been different. That was a 14-point turnaround.
"We also missed opportunities and we have got to nail them. They were clear opportunities, not half-chances.
"The feeling in the dressing room is one of frustration. You set your stall out and go out to do things and it's taken out of your hands.
"We have to understand what the referee is looking for better than we did today, we could never quite get on the right side of him."
Leicester Tigers: Morris; Scully, M Tuilagi, Bai, Goneva; Goneva, Burns; Mulipola, Ghiraldini, Balmain; De Chaves, Kitchener; Gibson, Salvi, Crane.
Replacements: Mele for B. Youngs (61), T. Youngs for Ghiraldini (44), Barbieri for Crane (61). Not Used: Bristow, Pasquali, Gibson, O. Williams, Smith.
Newcastle Falcons: Hammersley; Sinoti, Powell, Socino, Cato; Godman, Blair; Vickers, McGuigan, Tomaszczyk; Green, Furno; Mayhew, Welch (capt), Hogg.
Replacements: Tuilagi for Cato (52), Tiesi for Godman (52), Tipuna for Blair (52). Not Used: Lawson, Rogers, Brookes, Barrow, Saull.
Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU).