Botham bowls over Wasps

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The Independent Online

Rob Andrew is not one given to wild speculation, but a week after Newcastle opened their season by defeating the Heineken Cup holders, Northampton, and within minutes of holding the champions, Leicester, to three points, Andrew declared: "We know now that we have no-one to fear in the Premiership."

Rob Andrew is not one given to wild speculation, but a week after Newcastle opened their season by defeating the Heineken Cup holders, Northampton, and within minutes of holding the champions, Leicester, to three points, Andrew declared: "We know now that we have no-one to fear in the Premiership."

At the time, there were those who believed Newcastle's director of rugby was hoping to win an Olympic medal for jumping - to conclusions. Having lost to Gloucester at Kingston Park since the defeat by Leicester, another home defeat would have left Andrew with most of the season to wipe the egg off his face. With Wasps on a four-match winning roll, and with the incentive to move up to second in the table, this was a big test for Andrew's team. My word, how well they passed it.

Three seasons ago when they won the title, the Newcastle pack contained Pat Lam, Garath Archer, Dean Ryan, Nick Popplewell, and Peter Walton. It was a no-nonsense unit capable of standing toe-to-toe with the best. Today's lightweight outfit struggles against most others in the Premiership, but not yesterday. Wasps were quite unable to exploit any perceived weaknesses in the Falcons' forward armoury, despite a typically forthright display by their captain, Lawrence Dallaglio.

Ultimately, Wasps were undone by the brilliance of the Newcastle backs and the kicking of Jonny Wilkinson, who contributed 29 points as the Falcons seized control in the second half, running in four tries to grab a bonus point. Newcastle were building upon a 23-14 half-time lead, having allowed Kenny Logan to steal a couple of tries after John Leslie had crossed for a superb touchdown in the eighth minute.

A try by Jamie Noon got Newcastle back on track and Wilkinson chipped in with the first three of his six penalties and converted both tries.

Wasps were lifted by a try from Martyn Wood and, with Logan's conversion, were within five points. That is as close as they were allowed, once Wilkinson banged over a tremendous, right-footed drop goal from fully 50 metres, and then added another penalty.

From that point, the roof fell in on Wasps as Liam Botham - whose defensive blunders in the first half allowed Logan so much freedom - smashed across for a try. Gary Armstrong waded in with two trademark tries before Botham finished the demolition job with his second.

Newcastle: M Stephenson; L Botham, J Noon, J Leslie, V Tuigamala; J Wilkinson, G Armstrong; G Graham, R Nesdale, I Peel (M Ward, 70), D Weir (Capt; H Vyvyan, 70), S Grimes, R Beattie, A Mower(J Cartmell, 74), J Jenner.

Wasps: J Lewsey; S Roiser, F Walters, M Denney, K Logan; M Leek, M Wood; D Molley A Le Chevalier, 66), P Greening T Leota, 66), W Green, A Reed, S Shaw, J Worsley, P Volley, L Dallaglio (capt).

Referee: S Lander (Kirby, Wirral).

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