Rugby Union: Andrew injured as Wasps fly high

Wasps 34 Newcastle 33
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The Independent Online
A COUPLE of mistakes cost Newcastle 12 points and victory but, cruelly, the errors were not theirs. Blame has to be laid at the feet of the referee, Robin Goodliffe. It soured proceedings for the North-Easterners and was a savage blow to their European ambitions.

The victors, of course, would not quite see it like that, and were buzzing after the narrow win, lifted them into fifth place in the Allied Dunbar Premiership.

Newcastle also lost Rob Andrew, who dislocated his left shoulder - ironically, in second-half injury time when Wasps were scoring their winning try, while just prior to that Mr Goodliffe had sent the Newcastle captain, Gary Armstrong, to the sin-bin for killing the ball.

Newcastle's coach, Steve Bates, was understandably unhappy. His side had done enough to win, not necessarily by a lot. Andrew also confirmed later that he was "done for the season", a diagnosis which rules him out of the Tetley's Bitter Cup final on 15 May against, of all sides, Wasps.

It was a brutal but at times beautiful encounter. Rugged, rough and thrilling. And Wasps actually did enough to have won the match off their own bat. It could be argued that it was Wasps' errors which let Newcastle in for their tries and that it was their indiscipline which allowed Jonny Wilkinson to knock over his four penalties.

Mr Goodliffe's first mistake was to award a penalty for offside against Newcastle after Andrew's kick had rebounded off a Wasp, thus rendering all the former England fly-half's team-mates onside. But the touch judge, who was on the spot when the kick was taken, did not intervene when Mr Goodliffe ruled that Tony Underwood was offside when he gathered the rebound.

From the penalty came the first try, when the Wasps scrum-half Martyn Wood darted over. Then came the killer. Vai'aiga Tuigamala, who had had an immense game for Newcastle scoring two tries, was adjudged to have tackled Gareth Rees illegally. Wasps kicked for the corner and spent some time on the visitors' line.

Then Armstrong was shown the white card and, eventually, the Wasps prop, Darren Molloy, bulldozed over. Alex King, who had a superb match, kicked the winning conversion.

With four more injuries on his plate to pose further problems before Wednesday night's league match at home to Richmond, it was little wonder when Bates said: "The players feel harshly treated. The biggest problem now is to get the players back up for Wednesday."

Mr Goodliffe is not one of the three RFU professional referees, who are Steve Lander, Ed Morrison (in Argentina this weekend) and Chris White, who was in charge of the Hampshire Cup final yesterday afternoon.

Wasps: Tries Lewsey, Wood, Molloy; Conversions King 2; Penalties King 4; Drop Goal King.

Newcastle: Tries Tuigamala 2, Wilkinson; Conversions Wilkinson 3; Penalties Wilkinson 4.

Wasps: G Rees (J Ufton, 80); J Lewsey, F Waters, M Denney, P Sampson; A King, M Wood; D Molloy, T Leota, W Green (capt), S Shaw, A Reed (J Beardshaw 38-41 and 51), S Shaw, L Dallaglio, P Volley, J Worsley (E Rollitt, 41- 47).

Newcastle: S Legg; V Tuigamala, M Shaw, R Andrew (P Massey, 79), T Underwood (J Naylor, 60); J Wilkinson, G Armstrong (capt); G Graham, R Nesdale, M Hurter, G Archer, D Weir, P Walton, R Beattie, R Arnold.

Referee: R Goodliffe (Sheffield).