Edwards adds insult to Cipriani's injury blow

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The Independent Online

The talk of the rugby side of the Toon on Saturday was of how Dan was the man – of the new lease of life he has gained, and of an England call waiting for him. So much, though, for Dan Ward-Smith. The talk of his more fancy Dan team-mate was of the doom and gloom variety.

On the day Wasps waved goodbye to their Guinness Premiership play-off semi-final prospects Danny Cipriani went on his way with an unlucky break that seems likely to deny him one last hurrah at Twickenham before he embarks on his new life Down Under as a Melbourne Rebel. Landing awkwardly while grounding the ball, the sometime England fly-half – playing at full-back in what proved to be his final game for Wasps – damaged his right thumb so severely he required oxygen at pitch-side.

The chances of him lining up against England for the Barbarians on 30 May do not look bright. "It's a suspected fracture," said Tony Hanks, Wasps' director of rugby. "Dan's in a considerable amount of pain."

But perhaps the real ouch moment came when Shaun Edwards, Wasps' head coach, was asked about the "fantastic journey" upon which Cipriani was poised to embark. "It's fantastic in his opinion," Edwards replied. "I like staying at Wasps, me. I'm pretty sure he'll be hoping they're going to sign a lot of players because at the moment I think they've got six, and I don't think they've got much chance of winning games with six players."

Ward-Smith knows all about pain and misfortune on the injury front. In his Bristol days, the big Kiwi-Cornishman was on the threshold of breaking into the England team when he suffered a busted knee the week before the Six Nations opener in 2007. Now, at the age of 32 the No8-cum-second row finally seems poised for a senior international breakthrough, his latest command performance in Simon Shaw's No4 jersey suggesting he will have a role, or possibly two, to play on England's tour to Australia.

"As Shaun says, Dan's the new prototype second row," Hanks said. "He's had big shoes to fill atNo4 for us and he's been a big revelation. He doesn't do the big, starry stuff but he rolls up his sleeves and carries and carries."

Such relentlessness on Saturday carried Ward-Smith through the home defence and over the whitewash for the 52nd minute try that put Wasps into the lead against a Newcastle side who played with a good deal of promise in their first match under the stewardship of Alan Tait.

Sadly for the Falcons, it was also their last game under the captaincy of Carl Hayman. The All Black tighthead is off to Toulon – together with Paul Sackey, who signed off for Wasps with a score on the break. They might just have the numbers to make up a XV down there in the south of France.

Newcastle: Tries Gopperth, Shiells, Swinson; Cons Gopperth 2, Catterick. Wasps: Tries Webber, Ward-Smith, Sackey; Cs Walder 2; Penalties Walder 2.

Newcastle: A Tait; D Williams (S Davey, 70), R Vickerman, T Tu'ipulotu, G Bobo; J Gopperth (Catterick, 79), M Young (H Charlton, 44); M Ward (G Shiells, h-t), R Vickers (M Thompson, 70), C Hayman (capt; K Brookes, 79), J Hudson, T Swinson, F Levi, B Wilson, J Afu ( M Soresnson, 62).

Wasps: D Cipriani (M Van Gisbergen, 22); P Sackey, B Jacobs, D Waldouck, T Varndell; D Walder, J Simpson; T Payne (Z Taulafa, 63), R Webber (T Lindsay, 75), P Vickery (B Broster, 60), D Ward-Smith, G Skivington, S Betsen (T Lindsay, 51-58), T Rees (capt; D Leo, 72), J Hart (W Matthews, 62).

Referee: R Debney (Leicestershire).