Leicester eased their relegation fears and left Newcastle rooted at the bottom of the Gallagher Premiership with a narrow 27-22 win at Kingston Park.
The result went right down to the wire with the Falcons edging towards the Leicester line right at the death only to concede a turnover penalty which saw the Tigers hang on for what could be Premiership safety.
The Tigers dominated much of the first half and led 13-0 after 25 minutes.
The match did not start well for the Falcons with Toby Flood’s kick off going straight into touch and at the scrum on halfway Rodney Ah You was penalised. George Ford kicked the penalty for 3-0 to the visitors after less than two minutes.
Ford dominated the opening exchanges with some excellent kicking to keep Newcastle penned in their own half and the pressure paid off when back row Guy Thompson broke two tackles.
His back-of-the-hand offload sent Jonny May on a typical weaving run for a try which was converted by Ford to make it 10-0 in the 16th minute.
Ford added a 24th-minute penalty when Mike Williams hammered Flood in the tackle and Gary Graham went straight over the ball off his feet. It could have been 16-0 four minutes later when Ah You stupidly pushed Ellis Genge, but Ford’s kick hit the post.
But then Newcastle dragged themselves back into the match with two tries in three minutes.
A brilliant counter-attacking run from Simon Hammersley from deep in his own half into the Tigers 22 saw Tane Takulua find George McGuigan in support and his brilliant offload sent in Chris Harris for the try which was converted by Takulua.
Then a Mark Smith pick up at the base of the scrum in his own half saw the number eight release Niki Goneva who stepped Jordan Olowofela and raced down the right.
Goneva then found Takulua inside him and the scrum-half held off the high challenge of Ford to score in the corner and make it 13-12 in the 35th minute.
Newcastle started the second half with some early pressure but they presented Leicester with their second try in the 47th minute when Thompson intercepted Flood’s pass and raced in from halfway. Ford converted to make it 20-12.
Flood’s decision to got to the corner with a kickable penalty paid off when the Falcons drove for the line and Mike Williams was sin-binned for pulling down the maul.
There was an argument for a penalty try but Newcastle were awarded a penalty and Mark Wilson opted for the scrum. His pick up at the base and drive over led to the Falcons’ third try.
Takulua converted but only after referee Wayne Barnes ordered the kick re-taken when the Tigers charged too early.
That made it 20-19 and then a late tackle by Genge on Flood saw Takulua kick the penalty for Newcastle to lead 22-20 in the 62nd minute.
The lead did not last long with Thompson driven over from a line-out for his second try.
Ford’s conversion made it 27-22 with the crowd voicing their disapproval over how long it took for the kick to be taken.
It looked as if May had sealed the deal with a 72nd-minute try from Ford’s cross kick but the referee ruled that Genge had obstructed Hammersley as he went for the ball and the penalty allowed the Falcons to clear.
With the clock running down, Newcastle hammered away to win a penalty after 26 attacking phases.
They went to the corner with the penalty and looked to have driven Graham over but the referee decided it was held up and awarded Tigers the put in at the scrum.
But when the scrum collapsed, it was a penalty to Newcastle, who took it quickly and then did so again when another penalty went their way.
But with the clock red, Leicester the won a turnover penalty on their line to all but ensure Premiership survival.
Newcastle 22 (Chris Harris, Sonatane Takulua 2 tries; Takulua 2 con, pen) Leicester 27 (Johnny May, Guy Thompson 2 tries; George Ford 3 con, 2 pen). HT:12-13.
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