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A nine-try feast, five of them coming from London Wasps, gave Warren Gatland’s side a comfortable 43-29 win over the Newcastle Falcons at a sold-out Causeway Stadium and secured the side’s top-half position in the league table. This victory was the team’s fourth-consecutive win but only the first league game this season where Wasps have scored four or more tries.
An early try from Falcons’ centre Epi Taione, converted by Jonny Wilkinson, gave the visitors a 7-nil lead. Three minutes later, Wasps hit back with Richard Birkett running in from 10 yards out to score his first try of the season. The lock was given space to run into when fullback Mark Van Gisbergen sliced open the Falcons’ defence. Alex King converted and Wasps were level.
Gatland’s side totally dominated the first half and Van Gisbergen, together with King, caused havoc for the Falcons with some electrifying runs from the back. Together with Joe Worsley, they took Wasps over the advantage line and into the Falcons’ 22. This allowed the side several attacking options, one of which was used for King to slot a drop-goal that allowed Wasps to take the lead, something they would never relinquish.
The game was built around the fact that England’s hero Wilkinson was in town and everybody wanted to see him, but it was The Black & Gold Army that were stealing the show. King landed his first penalty of the day in the 24th minute and was involved in helping Tom Voyce score the side’s second of the game. Unfortunately, while King was feeding the backline for Voyce to score, he clashed with Wilkinson and was treated for a deep cut above the eye, which saw him being replaced by James Brooks. Van Gisbergen missed the conversion, but the signs were clear that Wasps were laying down the platform for a big scoreline.
Just after the half-hour mark, Worsley added the side’s third try of the match, which was converted by big kicking from Edd Thrower, taking the score to 25-7. The only consolation for Falcons in this half was when Jamie Noon latched onto a Wilkinson pass and scored under the posts to bring his side back into the game. The conversion was added but at 25-14, Wasps were still in control and looking very good for the bonus point.
After the break, Thrower extended the lead with his first penalty of the afternoon but that was immediately cancelled out when Wilkinson added one of his own. Then when Falcons’ No.8, Colin Charvis was helped over the tryline with a stunning catch and drive, it was game on. The conversion was missed by the new England captain but at 28-22, the Wasps fans must have felt a little concerned knowing that although their side was in control, the Geordies were still in the match.
Another worry was that Matt Dawson limped off with a hamstring strain, meaning he could miss the next two to three weeks. Harvey Biljon replaced the scrumhalf, and played very well for the final half-hour.
Thrower missed a penalty on 55 minutes but made up for it when Falcons’ Flanker, Semo Sititi, was yellow carded for playing the ball on the ground in a try-scoring position for Wasps. With a man up, Wasps knew they had the perfect chance to secure a four-try bonus point and it came from Van Gisbergen. The fullback joined the line and crashed over in the corner to score a try he thoroughly deserved. Thrower missed the conversion but the try was what put Andrew’s side out of the game as at 36-22, Wasps were now coasting home.
To add salt to the wounds, Ayoola Erinle was let loose as a replacement for Rob Hoadley and the ‘Super Sub’ once again came up trumps. Erinle, who missed the Northampton game due to injury, collected the ball from 22 yards out, ran straight at Wilkinson and simply went around him. Erinle dotted the ball down under the posts for Thrower to convert and at 43-22 it was game over.
Falcons did, however, score a fourth try, courtesy of Michael Stephenson, which was duly converted by Wilkinson to make it 43-29, but by that time it was far too late. The final whistle went and Wasps had their win.
Worsley was named Man of the Match and must have impressed England coach Andy Robinson who was sitting in the stands. Wasps face Bath on Saturday in what will be a titanic battle.
London Wasps scorers
Tries: Birkett, Voyce, Worsley, Van Gisbergen, Erinle
Con: King, Thrower 2
Pen: King, Thrower 2
Newcastle Falcons scorers:
Tries: Taione, Noon, Charvis, Stephenson
Con: Wilkinson 2
King: 0 con; 0 pen
Van Gisbergen: x con
Thrower: 0 con; x pen, 0 pen; x con; 0 pen; 0 con
Wilkinson: 0 con; 0 con; 0 pen; x con
Man of the Match: Joe Worsley
Referee: David Rose