New Leicester head coach Matt O’Connor made a winning start to his second spell Welford Road as the Tigers boosted their chances of an Aviva Premiership play-off spot with a bonus point win at home to Newcastle.
The Australian, who helped Leicester win three Premiership titles between 2008 and 2013, saw his fourth-placed side win 30-3, scoring four tries through Ellis Genge (two), Telusa Veainu, and Ben Youngs with Freddie Burns kicking 10 points.
Newcastle scored one penalty through Joel Hodgson.
Leicester were forced to make an 11th hour change after number eight Luke Hamilton injured an ankle in training.
Tom Youngs is stopped in his tracks by the Newcastle defence ()
Brendon O’Connor moved into his place on the back row with reserve hooker Harry Thacker taking over on the openside flank, while George McGuigan replaced captain and hooker Tom Youngs who dropped to the bench.
Joel Hodgson replaced Newcastle fly-half Mike Delany, who broke a thumb in the win against Gloucester, while Sinoti Sinoti came in on the wing with Marcus Watson switching to full back.
Leicester spent most of the first period camped in the Newcastle half but created little until the last seconds when they scored a controversial try.
It came after they won against the head at a scrum in the Falcons’ 22 and, after intense forward pressure, prop Ellis Genge was awarded a try by the TMO even through replays proved inconclusive.
Brendon O’Connor of Leicester breaks into space ()
Fly-half Burns missed the touchline conversion so Leicester left the field at the break with 11-3 lead. Burns kicked penalties in the fifth and 36th minutes, while opposite number Hodgson slotted one in the 25th minute.
Newcastle were bidding for their first win at Welford Road since 1997 when Dean Richards, their director of rugby, was in the Leicester side.
The ninth-placed Falcons did not look like breaking that barren run as they were forced to defend for long periods. They did, however, create one of the best chances of the half in the 30th minute when Hodgson sparked a break-out, but former Leicester winger Vereniki Goneva did not have the pace to beat the cover and he was tackled by scrum-half Ben Youngs.
The hill facing Newcastle had turned into a mountain five minutes after the restart when they were reduced to 14 men when prop David Wilson was sin-binned.
Dan Cole prepares to take the ball into contact ()
He paid the price for Newcastle having conceded five penalties in about four minutes, and from a scrum moments later Leicester scored their second try through full back Veainu, with Burns adding the extras.
Genge crashed over for his second in the 56th minute, which Burns converted to make it 25-3. It was followed by a huge fracas but after watching replays refereed Ian Tempest took no action.
Ben Youngs earned Leicester a bonus point with a brilliant 40-metre solo break from a quickly-taken penalty in the 72nd minute. Owen Williams missed the conversion.
Leicester (11) 30
Tries: Genge 2, Veainu, B Youngs Cons: Burns 2 Pens: Burns 2
Newcastle (3) 3