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Cockerill's happy to get the break

Leicester boss Richard Cockerill admitted Vereniki Goneva was "a bit fortunate" to score the third of his hat-trick of tries which sealed their 36-17 victory over Newcastle.

The Fiji winger sprinted the length of the field after intercepting a pass on his own line to put Leicester out of sight at 31-10 in the 61st minute of their opening Aviva Premiership clash at Welford Road.

Falcons boss Dean Richards complained that the officials had missed Leicester hooker Tom Youngs standing five yards offside when replacement scrum-half Ruki Tipuna tried to make a scoring pass.

Cockerill admitted: "Niki's third try was a bit fortunate but he backed himself and got the interception.

"It was a 14-pointer. It was seven points either way, and fortunately it went ours."

Goneva's 17 minute hat-trick between the 44th and 61st minutes swung the match irrevocably Leicester's way after Newcastle had hit the Tigers with a try by Richard Mayhew 30 seconds into the second half to trail by just two points.

Leicester never looked back and replacement scrum-half David Mele scored a fourth try to give the hosts the maximum five points, while the Falcons scored a second near the end through Andy Saull.

Goneva came close to joining French Top 14 side Castres at the end of last season but stayed after lengthy talks and an increase in salary.

Cockerill said: "He came pretty close to going, but it helped that (Fiji centre) Seremaia Bai came, and the grass is not always greener.

"Niki was happy here but, like with everything, you have to make it work financially."

On his team's performance, Cockerill continued: "I'm happy with the five points, there's lots of work to do but we have some injury issues and it was a potential banana skin.

"I thought we coped well with the cheap try just after half-time. We kept our composure, got back into it and scored the tries. In the first half we were just finding our feet."

Richards said Goneva's third try was a key moment in the match and that Newcastle were frustrated with the officials' failure to review the incident - as well as his team's inability to take their chances.

The former Leicester boss said: "For the interception try, Tom Youngs was five yards offside.

"We had a four on two there and if we had been allowed to nail that rather than the referee and the touch judge missing the offside it might have been different. That was a 14-point turnaround.

"We also missed opportunities and we have got to nail them. They were clear opportunities, not half-chances.

"The feeling in the dressing room is one of frustration. You set your stall out and go out to do things and it's taken out of your hands. There's an element of frustration there.

"We have to understand what the referee is looking for better than we did today, we could never quite get on the right side of him."

Cockerill said England flanker Tom Croft, whose comeback from a knee reconstruction was shelved because of a shoulder injury, would be fit for next weekend's trip to Exeter.


From Belfast Telegraph