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The home side had led 12-0 at the break, but Newcastle had much the better of an error strewn second half and were pressing hard for a match winning score, which to the relief of the home crowd, the Wasps defence held out until the final whistle.
The Wasps side showed two changes from the side originally named. Having failed a fitness test prior to the game, Paul Sackey was replaced by Lachlan Mitchell, with Rob Hoadley coming onto the bench. In the front row, Pat Barnard was still suffering from the heavy knock sustained at Saracens, which saw Academy prop Bob Baker make his second Premiership start.
Wasps mounted their first serious attack after four minutes, when a loop move on halfway created space down the left. Danny Cipriani’s lofted kick put the Newcastle defence under pressure, forcing a five-metre scrum, but possession was lost. Despite this, Wasps stayed camped in the 22, and were eventually rewarded with a Cipriani penalty, after nine minutes.
A thunderous tackle from Josh Lewsey, on MickyYoung, set up a Wasps turnover, but Mark Van Gisbergen’s kick, from his own ten metre line, rolled dead at the far end. Wasps were penalised at the resultant scrum, but Tom May’s kick went wide of the left hand post.
Aggressive defence from Wasps then forced a knock-on in the Newcastle backs and Cipriani’s raking kick took play deep into the 22. Wasps then put together their best passage of play of the game, with backs and forwards combining well. Rob Webber and Tim Payne were both prominent in a move which ended with another Cipriani penalty, to stretch the score to 6-0, after 22 minutes.
Another fine kick from Cipriani found touch at the right corner and Wasps won the lineout, to set up a series of powerful drives, which came close to a try. Their pressure eventually led to a penalty at a scrum, 15 metres to the right of the posts, but Cipriani’s kick went just wide. Within seconds, the fly half made amends in spectacular style with a magnificent drop goal from several metres inside his own half to make it 9-0.
Newcastle’s backs threatened briefly, with one powerful run from Tane Tu’ipulotu punching his way into the 22, but possession was turned over and a clearing kick took play back into Newcastle territory.
Tom Voyce, who had clearly been struggling, was then replaced by Rob Hoadley
A surging run from captain and Man of the Match, Tom Rees, started another powerful attack, with only a last-ditch tackle from Jamie Noon stopping George Skivington just short of the line. But a knock-on at the breakdown ended the move in the final minute of the half. There was still time for another Cipriani penalty to make it 12-0 at the break.
Wasps had completely dominated the half, stringing together some flowing rugby, but, frustratingly, they had been unable to apply the finishing touches. Newcastle had rarely threatened, and the halftime score was a fair representation of the way the game had gone.
Wasps made another substitution at the break, with Charlie Beech replacing Tim Payne. A strike against the head set up Newcastle’s best chance of the game, with ex-Wasp John Rudd going for the corner, only to be held up as he crossed the line. Another good chance went with a knock-on a few metres out. Wasps snapped up the loose ball and counterattacked, before Cipriani sent a long kick downfield, which bounced over replacement fullback Steve Jones’s head before rolling dead.
Joe Simpson then came on for Mark Robinson, who’d had a typically busy afternoon, and Wasps were immediately denied by the bounce of the ball, from Cipriani’s chip to the corner. It evaded Jones, but then also went past the chasing Lachlan Mitchell, before falling into the arms of Tim Visser, who was able to clear.
With 20 minutes of the half gone, Newcastle finally opened their account, when Tom May kicked a simple penalty (12-3). By now, the game had degenerated into a disjointed affair, with neither side able to string together more than two or three phases, before making a handling error, or losing possession.
With seventeen minutes left, Mark Van Gisbergen was replaced by Jeremy Staunton, and Cipriani moved to fullback. Further substitutions saw Richard Birkett and Joe Ward come on for Simon Shaw and Rob Webber. With 14 minutes still to play, another simple May penalty made it 12-6. Joe Worsley than came on for John Hart.
Newcastle sensed that they now had a great chance of stealing the win, and a glorious opportunity was wasted when May knocked on, with an overlap beckoning, on the left.
With a minute left, Newcastle were awarded a penalty and had no option but to go for the corner. They won possession, and battered away at the Wasps line, until the defence forced a crucial turnover, to seal an edgy win.
The result means that Wasps can still set their sights on an assault on the table, pushing for a spot in Europe despite some tricky mathematics. Your support will as ever be crucial to the campaign so be sure to secure your place in the stands for the last home game at Adams Park as the Cherry and Whites travel to High Wycombe, 25th April, KO 3pm. Tickets are available online or by calling the ticket office on 0870 414 1515.