Cipriani brightens the mood with moment of inspiration

Wasps 12 Newcastle 6
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The Independent Online

This turned into a game of four halves. Wasps fly-half Danny Cipriani provided a substantial crowd with the moment of the match after half an hour, as well as all the Wasps points.

Wasps had their noses in front when Cipriani, having just missed a penalty attempt, received the ball just in his half and swivelled, before casually launching a 51-metre drop goal.

It provided the only decent reason to cheer all afternoon. Fortunately for Wasps, Cipriani managed to knock over a third penalty, which, as things turned out, gave them enough of a cushion to keep victory out of reach of Falcons' claws.

Wasps owed Cipriani's presence in the side to the generosity of England manager Martin Johnson. As a member of the England Saxons squad Cipriani would not normally be allowed to play three games in eight days, but Johnson waived the rule.

Newcastle, despite dominating the second half, only had two penalty goals by their stand-in stand-off Tom May, although they did think John Rudd had touched down four minutes after the interval. The referee and Wasps, though, believed Mark van Gisbergen had got his body between ball and ground, so it came to nought.

Yet again Newcastle were without Jonny Wilkinson. Steve Bates, the Newcastle director of rugby, insisted that he was not far off full fitness, following the dislocation of a kneecap suffered at Gloucester last September.

"We will have another look at him again this week," said Bates. "There's every chance he will play before the end of the season."

Newcastle certainly could have done with him, although Bates was pleased with what he saw of Wilkinson's understudy, the 19-year-old Rob Miller. "Miller showed some neat touches when he came on, which is very good for next year."

Since Bates professed not to know whether Wilkinson will be in the country next season – the indications are that he is a whisker away from signing for French side Toulon – it suggested that Bates himself is resigned to losing his star player.

Wasps are definitely losing one of their star players. Josh Lewsey. The World Cup winner and former Lion announced he is to retire at the end of the season. He takes with him a lot of swag. He has won nine trophies with Wasps and his director of rugby, Ian McGeechan, said: "There won't be many backs going away with that much silverware. He has been a very significant factor in our success here."

Whether, as head coach of the forthcoming Lions tour to South Africa, McGeechan can help Lewsey add another Lions tour to his career is another matter. But McGeechan said that retirement would not count against Lewsey as far as selection goes. "It does not make it more difficult. I have told him he's got to be playing well." So must Wasps if they are to secure a place in Europe next year.

Wasps: Penalties: Cipriani 3; Drop-goal: Cipriani.

Newcastle: Penalties May 2.

Wasps: M Van Gisbergen (J Staunton, 65); L Mitchell, D Waldouck, J Lewsey, T Voyce (R Hoadley, 35) ; D Cipriani, M Robinson (J Simpson, 54); T Payne (C Beech, h-t), R Webber (J Ward, 67), P Barnard, S Shaw (R Birkett, 67), G Skivington, J Haskell, T Rees (capt), J Hart (J Worsley, 69).

Newcastle: A Tait (S Jones, 13; R Miller, 75); T Visser, J Noon, T Tu'ipulotu, J Rudd; T May, M Young; M Ward (D Wilson, h-t), R Vickers (M Thompson, h-t), C Hayman, G Parling (A Perry, 79), M Sorenson, P Dowson (capt), B Wilson, A Balding (R Winter, 59).

Referee: D Richards (Berkshire).

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