Mafi rescues Tigers
Late try sinks Falcons and lets Tigers off the hook after kicking woes
Last Updated: 17/09/11 7:01pm
Mafi: Match winner for Leicester
A late try from Steve Mafi gave Leicester a thrilling 27-26 victory at Newcastle to leave the Falcons rooted to the foot of the Aviva Premiership table.
Newcastle had scored three tries and had looked like bagging an unlikely victory thanks to Tigers centre Billy Twelvetrees missing a hatful of kicks.
Even in the dying seconds Newcastle could have been awarded a potentially match-winning penalty, but it was not to be their day and they will feel hard done to after failing to get the win.
Newcastle started with a bang with both Greg Goosen and Jimmy Gopperth scything through but Leicester's scrambling defence was good at the expense of a penalty, which Gopperth knocked over after just two minutes.
It took the Tigers just three minutes to draw level with a Twelvetrees penalty and he looked to have made it 6-3 with an 11th minute kick, but the touch judges thought not. The referee thought he had, and it looked close, but the video replay backed the touch judges.
Gopperth knocked over a 15th minute penalty for 6-3 after Newcastle had gone close to the line with a series of drives, but a 19th minute try from lock Ed Slater after a slick Tigers move made it 8-6.
Newcastle hit back with an equally slick move involving James Fitzpatrick, Alex Tait and Grant Shiells before Goosen rocketed through to make it 11-8 in the 25th minute.
Twelvetrees levelled the scores with a 28th minute penalty and just before the break Newcastle bombed a real chance for a second try as Richard Mayhew spilled the ball and Leicester almost scored at the other end when Scott Hamilton and Mafi swept away.
Somehow, Newcastle got back to smother the attack at the expense of a penalty which the Tigers opted to kick at goal, only for Twelvetrees to miss it and leave the half-time score tied at 11-11.
He missed another chance shortly after the restart and Newcastle made Leicester pay when Gopperth belted a long penalty which resulted in a lineout and ended with Tim Swinson crashing through. Gopperth converted for 18-11 in the 47th minute.
Newcastle shot themselves in the foot with some weak tackling to allow Julian Salvi through for a 53rd minute try and the scores should have been level, but Twelvetrees hit the post with the conversion before kicking a straight-on penalty three minutes later for 19-18.
Back came Newcastle through Fitzpatrick and Tait and a 60th minute penalty for offside was the result for Gopperth to put Newcastle back in front 21-19 and the match see-sawed again when Twelvetrees landed a 63rd minute penalty for wheeling the scrum to make it 21-22.
In a pulsating match, Gopperth chipped ahead and Luke Fielden got there first - but only after confirmation from the video official - for a try which made it 26-22 with 15 minutes left.
With three minutes left, there was still just four points in it and Leicester inched their way up to the Newcastle line and put the squeeze on at three successive scrums before engineering a gap for Mafi to score and make it 26-27.
With seconds left on the clock, Newcastle had a chance of a drop goal shot but the pass to Gopperth was a poor one and he had no choice other than to run it. When he was tackled, controversially, it was Leicester awarded a penalty for not releasing.
Sat 16th May
Bath50 - 30Gloucester
Exeter44 - 16Sale Sharks
Leicester Tigers22 - 14Northampton
London Irish40 - 40Wasps
London Welsh17 - 68Saracens
Newcastle Falcons37 - 21Harlequins
Sat 23rd May - Semi Final
Northampton0 - 0Saracens
Bath0 - 0Leicester Tigers