They twice came from behind, to score three tries, the third a magnificent score by Paul Sackey, in his final appearance for the Men in Black and Gold. Sadly, the win was not enough to secure the final playoff place, as Bath’s 39-3 win over Leeds meant that Wasps ended the season in fifth place in the Premiership.
Newcastle dominated possession in the opening exchanges, and went ahead after three minutes, following a controlled build-up, which took play up to the Wasps line. A Wasps boot kicked the ball out of the ruck, and it went straight to Jimmy Gopperth, who jinked his way over for a try, which he then converted.
From the restart, Wasps mounted their first attack, when Serge Betsen fed Tom Rees, following a ruck near the right touchline. The skipper’s strength took him deep into the home 22, but he lost possession in the tackle and Wasps were penalised at the resultant scrum.
Newcastle missed a great chance to extend their lead, when a fine run by fullback Alex Tait created an overlap on the left, but flanker Brent Wilson dropped the pass on the 22. Wasps responded well, with a mazy run by Paul Sackey, who gathered the ball near his own line and beat a series of defenders, before finding George Skivington in support but the lock’s pass hit a defender on the head and bounced to safety. Then, Joe Simpson broke down the blind side from a scrum. He had Sackey outside, him, but the defence managed to prevent the pass and he lost the ball in the tackle just outside the 22.
Wasps appeared to be gaining control, but were reminded of Newcastle’s threat when more excellent work by Tait helped take play back into Wasps territory, but a chip ahead went too far and Danny Cipriani was able to dive on to the ball to touch down for a 22 dropout.
Sadly, that was to be the fullback’s final contribution as he had injured his thumb on landing and he immediately left the field, to be replaced by Mark Van Gisbergen. Wasps mounted their best attack of the day, as forwards and backs combined well through multiple phases and Dom Waldouck went close in the right corner. From the lineout, a well-controlled drive ended with Rob Webber going over for a try, which Dave Walder converted, to level the scores in the 25th minute.
Wasps immediately stepped up a gear and threatened a second try, with another sustained buildup. The move ended, when possession was lost near the line, but the referee called play back for a penalty, near the post and Walder was on target to put his side 10-7 ahead with 28 minutes gone.
In the final minute of the half, Wasps won a lineout on the Newcastle 22 and worked the ball infield, but Newcastle turned possession over. Tait’s burst of pace launched a dangerous counterattack, featuring impressive running and handling by lock James Hudson, before the ball was spilled inside the Wasps 22 and the half came to an end with the Men in Black and Gold holding a narrow lead.
The home side could have gone back in front, four minutes into the second half, when a Wasps pass went astray near their 22 and Rob Vickermann was almost clear but his pass did not go to hand with the line beckoning.
Newcastle then had another chance to go ahead, when Gopperth’s hoisted kick to the corner was brilliantly taken by Hudson. He was caught just short, but Rob Webber was shown a yellow card, for holding a man back off the ball. The home side took immediate advantage of their numerical superiority as replacement prop Grant Shiells went over for a try. Gopperth’s conversion appeared to have been completely mishit, but then veered sharply to the right, and dropped over the bar, making it 14-10, in the 50th minute.
Wasps were only behind for three minutes. Walder’s high restart caused problems in the Newcastle defence, leading to a scrum in the 22. After a series of thrusts, Dan Ward-Smith forced his way over near the corner. Walder’s conversion attempt was just wide.
Newcastle then turned down a chance of three points, when they chose to kick the corner, and the Wasps defence was put under pressure, until the home side was penalised, right on the line, and Walder was able to lift the siege, just before Webber returned from the sin-bin, and Serge Betsen came back on for Tom Lindsay, who’d taken Webber’s place in the front row.
Further Wasps substitution followed, as Ben Broster replaced Phil Vickery and Will Matthews took the place of John Hart. Wasps immediately scored their third try, as Joe Simpson’s blindside break sent Paul Sackey away down the left. The winger cut inside the final defender, to cross for a magnificent score – his 49th for the club - which Walder converted, making it 22-14, with 17 minutes left to play.
Zak Taulafo replaced Tim Payne, as Wasps sniffed a bonus point. With nine minutes left, another Walder penalty stretched the lead to 25-14. Dan Leo came on for Tom Rees a few minutes earlier. With five minutes to go, Tom Lindsay returned for the hardworking Rob Webber, as Wasps continued to strive for the fourth try, but they were unable to find a way through, and it was the home side which snatched the final score, as Tim Swinton went over for a consolation try, after a powerful run by Kieran Brookes. The Tom Catterick’s conversion made the final result 25-21 to Wasps.
The result leaves Wasps with a final Round 22 win and a 5th place in the table which reflects a two place climb on 2008/09 and a place in Europes primary competition.