Rugby union: Newcastle's defence wins war of attrition

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Newcastle 27 Wasps 19

NEWCASTLE'S SEASON could have been in serious trouble if they had lost this attritional and at times brutally hard match at Gateshead. But even when it seemed as if Wasps were certain to make their forward superiority tell, Newcastle refused to yield, by calling up a defensive effort of the highest quality.

Against a Wasps team looking something like the side which won the title two seasons ago, some of Newcastle's tackling could be heard on the other side of the Tyne.

True, the try count went in Wasps' favour, though by the time Shane Roiser scored the game was already Newcastle's. Moreover, Kenny Logan's touchdown came in the sixth minute of injury-time.

Wasps may not have found the Gloucester pack a soft touch last week, but the confidence gained from that performance has persuaded the Wasps forwards that they are capable of living with the best. Thus they decided on a full-frontal strategy right from the off.

If Wasps had augmented it with some better decision-making, and the captain, Mark Weedon, had kept his mouth shut, Wasps would not have been 14-7 down at half-time.

Instead Wasps decided on attempting a pushover try when they first reached the line, instead of going for goal. When given a second opportunity, Wasps again attempted to muscle over. But the try was unforthcoming. One lost count of the times Newcastle were obliged to call on all their reserves of defensive capability, but refused to buckle. Jonny Wilkinson kicked three of his five penalties, Tony Underwood scooted in for a try and all Wasps had to show for 40 minutes of graft was a converted Lawrence Dallaglio try.

Wasps needed a rapid rethink. While they were trying to convert the thought to action, Gary Armstrong intercepted and scored by the posts and Wasps were being counted out.

Newcastle: Tries Underwood, Armstrong; Conversion Wilkinson; Penalties Wilkinson 5. Wasps: Tries Dallaglio, Leota, Roiser; Conversions: Logan 2.

Newcastle: S Legg (M Wood, 72); J Naylor, V Tuigamala, J Wilkinson, T Underwood; R Andrew, G Armstrong; N Popplewell (G Graham, 63) R Nesdale, I Peel, D Weir, G Archer, P Walton (S O'Neil, h-t), R Arnold, D Ryan (capt, R Beattie, 52).

Wasps: J Lewsey; S Roiser, L Scrase R Henderson (N Greenstock, 65) K Logan; A King, A Gomarsall (M Friday, 52); D Molloy, D Macer (T Leota, 47) W Green, M. Weedon (capt), A Reed (S Shaw, 52) L Dallaglio, P Volley, J Worsley (E Rollit, 29).

Referee: G Hughes (Manchester).