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Match Report

23 Feb 2007: Wasps v Newcastle Falcons

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Match Report
Falcons's Badge Newcastle Falcons 37
Wasps's Badge Wasps 11
Fixture Type: Guinness Premiership Venue: Kingston Park
Match Date: Fri 23 Feb 2007, Kick Off: 20:00
Referee: Martin Fox Touch Judge: Don Helme
Touch Judge: Paul Emerson

Wasps crash to five try defeat

Though Ian McGeechan admitted, with a rueful smile, that this wasn't the worst performance he had presided over as a Director of Rugby, he acknowledged last night that this was Wasps worst display since he joined the London club 18 months ago.

Walder's desperate lunge for the ball sums up Wasps evening

Newcastle did not have to do much to win the game, or score four of the five tries they racked up to garner a bonus point and move away from the relegation zone at the foot of the Premiership table.

Wasps display was in stark contrast to the control and poise they had shown to beat reigning Premiership champions Sale last Sunday, but McGeechan was mindful that his players were at no disadvantage from the five day turnaround - Newcastle also having played last Sunday -nor from the absence of nine players on international duty.

'There are no excuses. This was a poor performance for us and very embarrassing,' he said after the match.

'At half time we knew there was a game there to win, but if we kept making mistakes we wouldn't win it. And we kept making mistakes.'

Having conceded turnovers at roughly the rate of one every two minutes over the full 80, this was a fair reflection of the Wasps display on the evening. Both teams were clearly looking to play some positive attacking rugby, but for Wasps the adventure turned to misadventure as that crippling turnover rate allowed Newcastle more possession than they had a right to.

Indeed, but for some inaccuracy in finishing, the Falcons could have scored more. However, the passion and physicality of their play could not be faulted, and though Newcastle's Director of Rugby John Fletcher was magnanimous in victory, he was at pains to highlight after the match that his men had gone out with a game plan to put the visitors under a lot of pressure and meet Wasps physically. They couldn't have been rewarded more for their efforts, coming away with the bonus point in their third successful win over the Londoners in the last three seasons.

Newcastle got off to a dream start, Matt Burke running nearly the length of the field after intercepting a looping Wasps pass to score in just the second minute. This came as Wasps were moving the ball wide and, with an overlap, threatening to score in the corner themselves before what should have been the scoring pass fell into Burke's grateful hands. This was an accurate portent of what was to come. Both sides were winning quick ball and looking to attack with width. Moreover the number of turnovers - and Wasps won a few - allowed both sides the opportunity to counter attack, and the running from deep of both Mark Van Gisbergen and Tom Voyce had Wasps supporters hoping for a comeback as far as an hour into the game.

Indeed, when Wasps went in trailing by ten points at the half way mark, a comeback was far from unrealistic. Dave Walder had kept pace with Falcons' Loki Crichton in the place kicking stakes, both slotting six points in the first 40 minutes, and the ten point difference between the teams was Burke's try and a similar opportunistic score from Jamie Noon in the 18th minute, when Falcons forwards had stripped the ball from Wasps at a ruck and scrum half Lee Dickson had broken blind from well inside his own half before offloading to Noon, who cantered unaccompanied up the touchline for the try.

The turnaround in ends did not precedent a turn around in fortunes however, as Falcons started the second half with possession, after a mistake from Wasps receiving kick off, and a burst of pressure up the middle allowed prop Joe McDonnell to furnish hooker Matt Thompson with the scoring pass to go over in the corner just two minutes after the restart.

As Wasps' supporters laboured under the feeling of déjà vu, Dallaglio and his men fought to re-establish a sense of control over a match that was now fast getting away from them. Indeed, though Crichton came closest with a penalty that came off the post in the 53rd minute, Wasps were starting to play with more composure, and if a comeback was on the cards, this was when it was going to happen. However, despite establishing better field position, Wasps finishing was still fallible. One fine example of this came with an attacking line out for the visitors five metres from the Falcons try line, which the defending team picked off with apparent ease and confidently ran the ball out of their own 22 before being forced into touch near the ten metre line.

Though McGeechan rang the changes as the hour mark ticked past, Walder hauled off after 59 minutes sadly without a triumphant homecoming, and captain Dallaglio following him shortly after, the replacements could not turn around Wasps' fortunes.

McMillan on the way to scoring Wasps only try of the evening in his Premiership debut for the club

A try for Mark McMillan with six minutes to go, instigated by himself and well worked down the blind side by Shaw and Waters, gave Wasps the sniff of a losing bonus point, but when they looked to force the pace as the clock ticked down, another loose pass allowed Falcons No8 Russell Winter to pick off a simple interception in the Wasps 22 and put centre Mark Mayerhofler in for the Falcons bonus point score.

This should have been the final nail in the Wasps coffin but alas, with the clock on zero and Wasps perhaps looking for a last gasp opportunity to salvage some pride, the ball bobbled along a makeshift back line in their own 22 making perfect hunting for fly half Crichton. He pounced on the opportunity to snatch possession and make the short run to the line, though once in the scoring zone he presented the ball to prop Joe McDonnell who touched down amid ecstatic Falcons celebration.

'If there's 35 turnovers you lose games, and Newcastle didn't even have to play well, we gifted them a bonus point,' reflected a frustrated McGeechan after the game. 'I'm very disappointed and I must apologise to the Wasps' supporters who made the journey up here for the game, as it was by far our worst performance since I joined the club. It was pretty hard to take as it was not up to our standards by any means.'

McGeechan refused to use the absence of players on international duty as an excuse for the poor performance, saying, 'The way we played tonight we wouldn't have beaten anybody, full stop. We never got ourselves into a winning position and we've got to look at ourselves.

'We've lost away from home before this season but previously it's been a case of us failing to finish teams off. Tonight we never gave ourselves any chance of winning it simply because of the mistakes we made. We did come back well for a time and won a good amount of possession and field position, but we gave the ball away too much and you don't win games playing like that.'