Rugby Union: Falcons' pace and fluency rewarded by Walder's boot

Newcastle 29 Wasps 28
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The Independent Online
IF ALL Premiership matches played on international weekends were this good, there could be a case for staging more internationals. It was a game that had almost everything: a nerveless penalty from the touchline to win the game by Dave Walder in the sixth minute of stoppage time; two exceptional tries from Michael Roberts and a trademark touchdown by the elusive Ayoola Erinle; a remarkably self-assured debut by Toby Flood, and sufficient running and adventure from both sides to satisfy all those who like their rugby to be played with pace and width.

For the home supporters, there was the added satisfaction of seeing Newcastle return to the top half of the table. Rob Andrew, the Falcons director of rugby joked: "It's just another day at the office - it was the same as every home game," before declaring "as good a win as we've had all season."

To take the pick of that lot, it was Flood's performance which deserves greatest praise. Just 19, he had only just recovered from a knee operation and was drafted in at full-back. Flood normally plays at outside-half for the Newcastle Academy team, and his pass out of the tackle to send Phil Dowson in for a sumptuous try just before the interval was a gem in a game which had more sparkle than a jeweller's shop window.

Although the match started with a mass brawl - no lasting damage was done - Phil Greening was given a warning as to his future behaviour and Newcastle gave warning that they were going to move the ball at every opportunity. By the time the break was reached, the Falcons were in front though not in command.

But they were playing with bravado and self-belief. Mark Wilkinson had contributed a try and Tom May three penalties and a conversion to make the score 16-11.

May started the riot of running with a beautifully clean break. A glazier could not have done it better. But the centre-turned-wing was hauled down with the line in sight. Wasps, it seemed, were going to be in for a breathless afternoon unless they could close down Newcastle's space. Lawrence Dallaglio's men never did, even after they went ahead for the first time with three minutes of normal time remaining.

At that stage it looked as if the Falcons had blown it. Tom Voyce received hoots of derision when he made a hash of dealing with a misdirected Newcastle kick, but somehow he recovered to release Roberts who made almost 60 metres for what had all the hallmarks of the winning try, especially as Mark van Gisbergen added a second conversion to put alongside his three penalties. But when Dallaglio was penalised for not rolling away at the tackle, up stepped Walder to deny disbelieving Wasps.

Newcastle: Tries Wilkinson, Dowson; Conversions May 2; Penalties May 3, Walder 2. Wasps: Tries Roberts 2, Erinle; Conversions Van Gisbergen 2; Penalties Van Gisbergen 3.

Newcastle: T Flood; T May, M Mayerhofler, E Atone (A Dehaty, 52), M Stephenson; M Wilkinson, J Grindal; I Peel (capt; J Isaacson, 30), M Thompson (A Long, 43), M Ward, L Gross (G Parling, 65), C Hamilton (M McCarthy, 79), S Sititi, C Harris, P Dowson.

Wasps: M Van Gisbergen; T Voyce, A Erinle (E Thrower, 68), M Priscott, M Roberts; H Biljon, A King; C Dowd, P Greening (J Barrett, 48), W Green (A McKenzie, 48; T Payne, 81), M Purdy (S Shaw, 48), R Birkett, J Hart, G Skivington (J O'Connor, 48), L Dallaglio (capt).

Referee: R Debney (Leicestershire).

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