Newcastle Falcons 13 Leicester Tigers 24: Newcastle pointless in defeat to give Leeds more hope

Relegation-threatened Newcastle missed out on a losing bonus point which could prove crucial in their survival fight with Leeds, as they fell to title-chasing Leicester Tigers.

Last night’s defeat at Kingston Park means the Falcons could quickly be back at the bottom of the Premiership if the Yorkshire club beat Harlequins at Headingley on Sunday, or at the very least pick up a bonus point.

Their head coach Alan Tait said: “We have to keep going and target a win against Bath next week.

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“It’s all or nothing now in our final two games against Bath home and away.

“It’s disappointing missing out on the losing bonus point but we have to get on with it.

“There are a lot of sore bodies in the changing room, but they have to get themselves back up for Bath – and I’m sure they will.”

Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill pointed to the result as vindication for his team selection.

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Cockerill gambled on leaving out some of his top players including England half-backs Toby Flood and Ben Young.

The Tigers made sure of a home tie in the Premiership play-off semi-finals and are also on target to finish top of the Premiership table after opening up a six-point gap over second-placed Saracens.

And afterwards the 40-year-old said: “We have put ourselves in position to win a semi-final and make it into the grand final and that’s always been a target.

“The guys who came in for us today did a really good job.

“Giving Ben and Toby a rest will freshen them up for London Irish and the play-offs.”

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Alesana Tuliagi, Matt Smith and James Grindal in the 73rd minute scored tries for Leicester, with Flood’s replacement Jeremy Staunton adding nine points.

Tane Tu’ipulotu scored Newcastle’s sole try with Jimmy Gopperth kicking eight points.

Cockerill said: “A lot of sides come here and struggle and we have in the past. Four points is what we wanted and after a sticky patch in the second half that’s what we got.”

Charlie Hodgson’s final home match before joining Saracens ended in disappointment as the Exeter Chiefs spoilt the party with a superb 30-24 win over Sale Sharks.

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The Halifax-born fly-half was at the heart of every Sale attacking ploy and duly slotted a penalty and three conversions, but it was the Chiefs who finished their away campaign in style.

Hodgson’s opposite number Ignacio Mieres scored 10 points to go alongside tries from wings Nic Sestaret and Matt Jess.