Tigers opened their season with a second half blitz that saw 4 tries in half an hour and the bonus point claimed in a 36-17 win. Flying Fijian winger Vereniki Goneva matched George North and Dave Strettle by grabbing an opening day hat trick with substitute scrum half David Mele scoring the 4th, Freddie Burns scored 16 points with the boot.
The first half was a territorial battle; a rare chance came the way of Tigers following Seremaia Bai's chip down the left flank. Chased by Goneva the Fijian won the foot race and hacked on only to be taken out with the line at his mercy. Bizarrely referee Luke Pearce did not even award a penalty, let alone the penalty try and red card the trip might have merited.
Newcastle defended the subsequent 5m lineout excellently, stopping a rampant Mulipola short then holding Tigers attack out for multiple phases before conceding the penalty for offside. Burns slotted that and 2 more for scrum offences with Socino claiming Newcastle's sole first half points after a contentious off side call against Jordan Crane for a 9-3 score line. A further penalty for Newcastle killing the ball inside the 22 gave Tigers a 12-3 half time lead.
The second half was a completely different game with 6 tries and a lot of running rugby. Newcastle started the half with a bang. Burns missed touch along the Crumbie side as Sinoti Sinoti tip toed down the line. The Samoan fed the ball inside to the impressive Simon Hammersley, a summer singing from Hull Ionians, who carved the Tigers defence apart. With only Burns remaining he was powerless to stop Hammersley drawing the man and finding Richard Mayhew for the easy run in.
This visibly stung Tigers into action. Attacking with purpose we got the ball into Manu's hand, always a solid plan, and waited. He did not disappoint, powering past his man he was hauled down inches short and looked to have lost the ball forward. Goneva was following up and pounced on the loose ball to claim the try.
Luke Pearce passed the decision to the TMO, and it quickly emerged that Manu had slam dunked the ball into Godman's head, and very clearly he had done it backwards. One of the odder tries Goneva will score.
Goneva doubled his tally just 5 minutes later. Burns was the creator dancing through a gap he created with a mesmerising dummy, before an inside pass to Goneva who muscled his way past the last man before stretching out to find the line.
Newcastle now really came into it, looking a completely different side to the first half and the one that struggled last season. They carved Tigers apart again before the half back partners of Burns then Youngs combined in the ruck to force a crucial turnover. Again the Falcons came with Sinoti Sinoti making a dangerous burst inside the Tigers 22, unfortunately the Samoan lost his bearings and simply dropped the ball whilst in full flight. Was it a pass to no one, a fumble or an attempted kick? Who knows it ended up as none of them.
Newcastle were looking dangerous and cut into the 22 again. In a crazy passage that I'm struggling to describe the Falcon attacker was cut down in full flight and passed, for my money, before a ruck was formed. That off load allowed Goneva to lurk in the back field, stepping in to intercept a Newcastle pass when the Falcons had a massive overlap and the try line begging.
Have pilfered the pass he outpaced the Kieran Brookes, a tough ask, and Sinoti Sinoti all the way to seal his opening day hat trick.
The interception seemed to take the wind out of Newcastle's sails; a 21 point deficit rather than a possible 7 point gap. The bonus point seemed inevitable and it came just 5 minutes later. Another of Bai's excellent chips forced the Falcons to scurry back and Powell only just beat Blaine Scully to the loose ball, conceding a 5m scrum in the process.
The Tigers pack heaved, with Geordie Fraser Balmain at the heart of it, and Newcastle crumbled. The Falcons did well to stay together and force the grounding from Mele, making the conversion harder in the process.
Barbieri's bunny hops with the ball trapped between his ankles were a masterstroke, keeping the ball under control and unarguably in the scrum.
After the final try the game fizzled out as Tigers cleared the bench. Newcastle grabbed a consolation try with 10 minutes left and kept attacking until the end but ultimately in was the 25 minute 4 try blitz from Tigers that sealed the victory.