Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Falcons Rise to the Wasps Challenge

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Falcons Rise to the Wasps Challenge

Article excerpt

London Wasps 6 Newcastle Falcons 12 NO STERNER test of nerve could Newcastle have envisaged to start the year. So just imagine their delight then, at securing not only their first ever Adams Park win, but also their third Premiership away victory of an intriguing campaign.

That they triumphed at all owed much to the iron will of goal-kicker Jimmy Gopperth, in shaking off three missed first-half penalties to land three more and end with four to his great credit.

Former Falcon Dave Walder scotched two goals, and Danny Cipriani one - and maybe Wasps should not have chopped and changed so much, Mark van Gisbergen taking the tee from Cipriani after that solitary shank.

Wasps were the only side to cross the tryline, but a Simon Shaw try was ruled out after TV Match Official Roy Marfleet judged Newcastle captain Carl Hayman kept the ball off the ground.

The home side should have crossed the tryline at the very death too, with six minutes of overtime on the clock, but Dan Ward-Smith cut back inside crazily with prolific try-scorer Tom Varndell waiting with arms raised in 10metres of space.

Whatever Wasps threw at Newcastle though, Steve Bates' courageous men just about withstood, to grapple another impressive win on the road to add to those landmark London Irish and Bath victories.

What a way this was to stamp out three straight Premiership defeats, the sorry Leeds loss, especially given the result, pushed Newcastle back to sixth and right back into the Heineken Cup picture.

Only the considerable frame of Carl Hayman and the TMO saved Newcastle turning in a try down in an opening half of industry and no small home threat.

Evergreen Lion Simon Shaw ended a series of whitewash nudges with the expectation he would be awarded a try, but Mr Marfleet had other ideas, ruling out the score in judging the Falcons skipper had held the ball off the ground. Wasps spent the first 40 more swarming than storming, clamping down on anything loose from the Falcons in the visitors' 22.

That tactic took only 11 seconds to pay dividend, with Alex Tait dropping the kickoff and the retreating Tane Tu'ipulotu cleaning up from an offside position.

Former Falcon Dave Walder was on the scoreboard with the penalty after just one minute then, but Newcastle hit straight back, settling for a Jimmy Gopperth penalty after pressing hard through the flyhalf, and then Tait.

Reliable to a fault normally, Walder went on to scotch two goal shots - but somehow Gopperth ended up outdoing him, failing with three in the half. So despite protracted periods battering, skulking and cajoling away with or without the ball in the Falcons 22, Wasps could not steal a lead they desperately craved.

Walder's second missed penalty hit the post, while an impressive Gopperth effort from distance bounced agonisingly back off the bar. …

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