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A last minute penalty from Dave Walder snatched victory from London Wasps at Kingston Park in Newcastle on Sunday afternoon. After Mark Van Gisbergen converted a fantastic 77th minute try from Michael Roberts, it looked as if Wasps had done enough to seal the four points. However, Walder stepped up and slotted the long-range effort to steal a 29-28 win for the home side.
It was heartbreak for Wasps as the side had done so much to stay in the game after Newcastle looked to be running away with it. In a game that saw several international players from both sides missing due to the Six Nations, the crowd of over 7’500 were treated to an exciting running game of rugby.
Tom May and Van Gisbergen traded early penalties before Ayoola Erinle came close to scoring within the first ten minutes. The centre played remarkably well and received praise from Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards after the game for his efforts.
May landed a second penalty on 15-minutes before Mark Wilkinson found a hole in the defence to cross for the first try of the game. It happened while Harvey Biljon was receiving treatment for a blow to the head and referee Rob Debney chose to carry on playing. The conversion from May followed and at 13-3, things were not looking good for Wasps.
On the half hour mark Van Gisbergen slotted his second penalty before Roberts crossed over for his first of two tries in the game. It came from a great catch and drive from a lineout. The pack steamrolled forward and drove close on 20m before the ball was sent down the backs. Roberts held on and did enough to scramble over in the corner. The conversion was missed but Wasps were now only trailing 13-11.
As the game approached half-time, May landed an easy penalty to take his side into the break leading 16-11.
Wasps started the second half badly by conceding a try within a few minutes of the restart. Phil Dawson was on the end of a well-worked move and the No.8 scored his side’s second try of the match. May added the extras and at 21-11, the home side were well in control.
That try forced Gatland to make several replacements as Jonny O’ Connor, Simon Shaw, Alistair McKenzie and Jonny Barrett came on for George Skivington, Martin Purdy, Will Green and Phil Greening respectively. The experience and fresh legs gave Wasps an injection of added pace and put them on the front foot. O’ Connor in particular showed his class with some outstanding breaks from the rucks and mauls.
This led to Erinle scoring one of his trademark breaks to cross for Wasps’ second try of the game and with Van Gisbergen adding the conversion, Gatland’s side were back in the game and now only trailing 23-18. The Wasps fullback added his third penalty of the game to bring Wasps within two points of Falcons and at 23-21 the game was still wide open.
Walder replaced May for the final quarter of the game and slotted a penalty on 74 minutes to make it 26-21.
Then came a moment of individual brilliance from Roberts that left most in the stadium in awe. A clearance from Walder failed to find touch and was caught by Tom Voyce who offloaded to Roberts within his own half. The winger raced away up the touchline, skipped passed three tackles and somehow scored. The home fans were left stunned and when Van Gisbergen converted from a good distance out, it looked as if Wasps would seal a 26-28 away win.
Unfortunately it was not to be as the side conceded a penalty within Walder’s range. He stepped up and sailed the ball between the posts for a dramatic 29-28 win. After doing so much to get their noses in front, Wasps were beaten at the death.
After the game Gatland said: “I felt we played a lot better today, especially our forwards. However, we were unlucky not to hang on for the win, but these things happen. We came here last season and snatched a late win, this time the roles were reversed.
Newcastle Falcons scorers:
Tries: Wilkinson, Dawson
Con: May 2
Pen: May 3 Walder 2
London Wasps scorers:
Tries: Roberts 2, Erinle
Con: Van Gisbergen 2
Pen: Van Gisbergen 3