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Match Report
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01 Mar 2003: London Wasps v Newcastle Falcons

Please note the change of date for this game, all tickets previously purchased are valid for the rescheduled match.

Match Report
London Wasps's Badge London Wasps 13
Falcons's Badge Newcastle Falcons 12
Fixture Type: Zurich Premiership Venue: Adams Park
Match Date: Sat 01 Mar 2003, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Roy Maybank

Wasps hold on for the win

London Wasps held on for a 13-12 win at Adams Park on Saturday. Warren Gatland and the side will take the four points, but at times it was a little too close for comfort.

The two weeks off for the team was reflected by the rusty performance and this resulted in an array of mistakes and handling errors from both sides. Newcastle came to High Wycombe looking to spoil the game and the game turned into a dog-fight.

Gatland said, “For me, early on, it was like one team trying to get the five points and the other trying to get one point. They obviously succeeded in what they were doing and we could have lost the game. We missed two or three tries in the first half and so we put ourselves under pressure. I was a bit frustrated. I felt there was only one team trying to play rugby”.

For the first 30 minutes, The Men in Black swarmed the Falcons’s defensive lines. Wave after wave of attack, especially from John Rudd and Fraser Waters contributed to an exciting first half. Rudd in particular was devastating on attack. He literally took on the Falcons and led the Wasps’ onslaught. His perseverance was rewarded with a try in the 22nd minute after Jonny Wilkinson and Alex King exchanged earlier penalties.

The only try of the game came after a volleyball type backpass by Falcons flanker, Warren Britz, to his fullback Joe Shaw went astray; Rudd pounced on the mistake and scored. King made sure of the conversion and the home side were on their way, leading 10-3.

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The game was on fast forward mode for the first two quarters and became rather exciting and promising from a Wasps perspective.

Many thought that Rudd’s try would open the floodgates for more five pointers, but instead it opened the heavens with rain.

Rudd’s good performance however came at a price as the winger had to leave the field with a slight back twist, but word from the medical staff is that he will be okay.

Asked what he thought of Rudd’s performance Gatland said, “He hadn’t played for a few weeks but I felt he was very strong on the ball and very happy. He has come on really well”.

A penalty in the 35th minute by Wilkinson brought the Geordies closer and when the England flyhalf landed a drop goal at the stroke of half-time to take the score to 10-9, Rob Andrew’s men, surprisingly only trailed by one point.

With the conditions slippery, the game and its points dried up. In-fact it took 30 minutes from the start of the second half before any other score was added.

King, who had missed an earlier drop goal attempt, landed one in the in the 70th minute. A Wilkinson special followed up that penalty a few minutes later, and at 13-12, it was game on. The only problem was, both sides didn’t want to play rugby. The mistakes and handling errors resulted in a poor show and after the initial good first-half performance, the second half was a nightmare to watch.

A point ahead and into injury time, Wasps’ supporters must have had visions of Wilkinson landing one of his trademark winning drop goals. Fortunately, it was not to be and the home side walked away with the four points and into a top-three league position.

Gatland said, “The guys are pretty disappointed but that’s because we set pretty high standards for ourselves, but we are in clear third now and teams have to chase us”.

“We probably threw too many miss passes. We needed to put the balls through the hands and be a little more direct. We did look really sharp out wide and I felt that if we had scored early on with a couple of tries they might have fallen away, but fairness to them, they defended and worked hard and stayed in the game”.

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“I was particularly pleased with the players’ attitude after the game. They were disappointed and said let’s go work harder. This time last year I don’t think there was any team working harder than we were and we will get back to doing that again”.

The team’s next game is against struggling Saracens on the 16th March and Gatland warned, “All the teams that we are playing from now on, apart for the Sharks, are all in the same position as Newcastle, all fighting for their lives. I don’t think any game from now on is going to be much different from what we played today”.