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Charlie Beech scores his first Premiership try
The win lifted them Wasps to 9th in the table and ended their run of three successive defeats. It was a victory that had looked on the cards at halftime, but a magnificent breakaway try by the home side, just three minutes after the break, had put them back into the lead and it was only well into the final quarter that Wasps sealed the lead.
Wasps were forced into a late change on the replacements bench, when Simon Shaw was forced to withdraw, still suffering from a knock to the leg picked up in last week’s game between England and South Africa. His place was taken on the bench by Rob Hoadley.
Newcastle went ahead after just three minutes, with a well-worked try by Danny Williams, after Tane Tu’ipuloto spotted a gap in midfield to send the right winger in at the corner. Rory Clegg converted with a fine kick.
Wasps came back with some excellent passing between the forwards, featuring Richard Birkett, George Skivington and Serge Betsen. They had made their way into the Newcastle 22, when they were penalised at the breakdown.
Wasps were back in Falcons territory when home fullback Steve Jones fumbled Eoin Reddan’s kick ahead, setting up a scrum just outside the 22. Newcastle were penalised for an early push and a quick tap by Captain Joe Worsley launched a series of phases which ended when Dan Leo couldn’t hold on to the ball a few metres short of the line.
Man of the Match Dave Walder
After several minutes of Wasps pressure, Newcastle scrumhalf James Grindal was penalised, out near the left touchline, and Dave Walder landed a fine kick from 40 metres. Frustratingly though Wasps failed to gather the restart and conceded a penalty on the 22. Clegg made no mistake with a straightforward kick to restore the seven-point advantage.
Wasps went back on the offensive after another well-judged Walder kick found touch near the corner. Newcastle’s defence was stretched out wide, where Bishay went close, but another sustained period of pressure ended with another Walder penalty after 20 minutes to make it 10-6 to the home side.
The Wasps forwards were following on from last weekend’s strong performance against Sale, helped by effective tactical kicking from Walder and Eoin Reddan. It was a strong chase of well-placed downfield kick from the fly half, which forced another penalty in front of the Newcastle posts, and he was on target to narrow the gap to a single point.
A superb downfield kick from Bishay then set up an attacking lineout, but Newcastle managed to turn over possession and launch a counter-attack, but they were eventually penalised on their own ten-metre line. Walder landed his fourth successful kick of the night, from 45 metres, to put his side ahead for the first time. The fly half then followed that with another superb kick from inside his own 22, which found touch near the corner. Before the lineout, Wasps were forced into their first substitution of the night, when John Hart replaced Worsley, who had taken a heavy knock several minutes earlier.
Wasps were now clearly gaining in confidence and beginning to put more pace n their game. Their power and pressure was forcing Newcastle into a series of penalties and another offence gave Walder the chance to successfully land another close-range kick, stretching the lead to 15-10 which was how it stayed until halftime.
Wasps were certainly good value for their lead as they had dominated territory and possession. Their attacking play was still lacking a cutting edge and there had been a couple of worrying defensive lapses in midfield but overall it had been an encouraging half, with Lachlan Mitchell again looking safe under the high ball and the halfbacks making the most of a solid platform from the forwards.
The pitch had cut up badly during the first half, making things increasingly hard for the backs, so hopes were high that the Wasps pack could lay the foundation for a strong second-half performance. As it was the visitors again made an early error - sending a kick into touch on the full. Two minutes later, Newcastle were back in front, after a try which began near their own line after Wasps turned over possession in a promising attacking position deep inside the Newcastle 22. Clegg saw that there was space out on the right, and his kick found Williams with two players in support. Desperate defence snuffed out the initial surge, but May was on hand to gather the ball and charge over for a fine try which Clegg converted.
Walder’s high kick set up another promising position, but the chasing Josh Lewsey was tripped by Tu’ipulotu. The officials missed the offence but TV replays clearly showed it. Wasps then suffered another cruel blow when Pat Barnard was carried off on a stretcher after several minutes of treatment. This brought Academy prop Charlie Beech off the bench for his season debut.
When play eventually resumed, Wasps immediately took the ball through several controlled phases to set up another promising attacking position. Tom Voyce was forced off with a blood injury and was replaced by Jeremy Staunton. Wasps immediately came close to scoring a try after a darting break and kick ahead by Reddan. The scrum half couldn’t ground the ball but Betsen followed up to dive on it. The referee went to his TMO, who ruled that Reddan had knocked on. Undeterred they continued to apply the pressure, again recycling the ball several times, until Walder pushed a drop kick wide of the posts.
Another Wasps substitution then saw Hugo Ellis come one for Leo in the back row. Most of the play remained in the Newcastle half, but Wasps still couldn’t turn possession into points, frequently losing the ball in promising positions. With fourteen minutes left, another controlled passage of play set up another drop goal chance for Walder, but he again pushed the ball wide. A minute later, he made amends, with a towering kick which rang the alarm bells deep inside the home 22. It set up a penalty, when flanker Ed Williamson was adjudged to have spear tackled Staunton and was shown the yellow card. Walder held his nerve sending the ball between the posts and putting his side back in front with 11 minutes left.
Nerves were now jangling on both sides and it took a fine piece of play from Mitchell to relieve a dangerous position near his own line, gathering a bouncing ball and bursting through a couple of tackles, to take play up towards the relative safety of 22. Despite being a man down, it was Newcastle who mounted a furious assault on the line, and a superb breakaway run by replacement Tim Visser set up a lengthy spell of pressure, which ended with a knock-on, deep inside the 22. The home side were running the ball, at every opportunity, and the defence was put under severe pressure. The decisive moment came from another long kick downfield, which put Visser under enormous pressure. Wasps won possession and Van Gisbergen’s snaking run took him to just short of the line, where Beech grabbed the loose ball, to charge over for his first Premiership try. Walder’s conversion attempt was off target, setting up a hectic last minute, but the defence held firm and a final turnover saw Reddan kick the ball joyfully into touch.