Leicester boss Richard Cockerill admits he was not surprised by Vereniki Goneva’s fast start to the new Premiership season as the Fijian helped himself to a hat-trick in Leicester Tigers’ victory over Newcastle.
Despite four Freddie Burns penalties handing Leicester a 12-3 half-time lead, Newcastle burst out of the blocks after the interval and Juan Pablo Socino – who had added a first-half penalty – converted Richard Mayhew’s try to bring the Falcons to within two points of their hosts.
But that was as good as it got as Goneva came to the fore, the Fijian replying almost immediately with two quick-fire tries before wrapping up his hat-trick with an intercept try that saw him run nearly the entire length of the pitch.
Replacement David Mele grabbed the bonus point fourth try before Andy Saull added a late consolation for the Falcons.
However there was no doubting who the star of the show was, with Cockerill fully expecting his Fijian star to pick up where he left off last season.
“We know how good Niki can be and we know how predatory he can be and when he got the intercept it killed them off because I thought it was going to be a try their way and we turned it around,” he said.
“He showed great pace to beat Sinoti to score it. Niki came back in the summer with his mum and dad and it was the first time they have been out of Fiji and seen him play abroad.
“He wanted to put a show on and fair play to him he certainly did that.
“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.
“He came pretty close to going [to Castres], but it helped that [Fiji centre] Seremaia Bai came [to Leicester], and the grass is not always greener.”
As for Newcastle Falcons, they have nothing to show for their endeavour at Welford Road, with director of rugby Dean Richards admitting his frustration.
“The third Goneva try was crucial,” he said.
“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. There’s an element of frustration there.”
- Planet Rugby