Gopperth pulls the strings as Newcastle stage fighting comeback

Newcastle 29 Wasps 17
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The Independent Online

Fly-half Jimmy Gopperth was at the heart of a remarkable revival that earned Newcastle Falcons their first Premiership win of the season last night after they looked in danger of being swept aside. Wasps led 17-3 after totally controlling the opening half-hour, but Newcastle scored 26 unanswered points, most of them from the boot of Gopperth.

Wasps' performance was ultimately as unconvincing as their earlier insistence that they have not finalised the six-figure signing of Gavin Henson.

"Further to speculation and inaccurate reports in the media, London Wasps can confirm that no further signings have been made to their 2010-11 squad," said Wasps in a statement that is hardly likely to dampen speculation about Henson.

And, as talented as he is when fit, there was at least one passage of play last night when Wasps left the crowd wondering whether a major investment in Henson was really necessary.

It came when Mark van Gisbergen collected a long kick upfield and back-flicked the ball to Tom Varndell. It was an audacious pass but the ball ran loose.

Newcastle failed to accept the opportunity as Tom Haughton scooped up the ball on the run and sparked a flowing move that involved half a dozen players. It was an inventive, incisive counter-attack that ended in a try for Ben Jacobs.

With Van Gisbergen converting, Wasps led 14-3. The Falcons had looked lethargic from the first minute when Van Gisbergen was narrowly wide with a penalty, but – as the Falcons hesitated – Varndell was able to charge forward and touch down.

Dave Walder also kicked a penalty for Wasps against his former club, whose only response was three points from Gopperth. Van Gisbergen made it 17-3 but pack pressure brought a converted try for Redford Pennycook as the Falcons stirred.

And, the pattern of the game was totally transformed as Tait's team went on to score the next 26 points, through a Tim Swinson try and the kicking accuracy of Gopperth.

Newcastle: Tries Pennycook, Swinson; Cons Gopperth 2; Penalties Gopperth 5. Wasps: Tries Varndell, Jacobs; Cons Van Gisbergen 2; Pens Van Gisbergen.

Newcastle: Fielden (A Tait, 51); Bobo, Eves, Henderson (Manning, 65), Amesbury; Gopperth, Young (Pilgrim, 72); Golding (Shiels, 71), Vickers, Ryan (Brookes, 65), Hudson, Swinson (Townson, 72), B Wilson (Welch, 51), Pennycook, Hogg.

Wasps: Van Gisbergen; Haughton (Lemi, 72), Jacobs, Flutey, Varndell; Walder, Berry (Davies, 47); Payne, Webber, Taulafo (Broster, 44), Shaw, Cannon, Ward-Smith, Rees, Powell (Worsley, 71).