Gopperth's late leveller keeps spirited Newcastle in contention

Newcastle 16 Worcester 16

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The Independent Online

According to Alan Tait before kick-off it was not so much a "must-win" game for Newcastle as a "should-win" encounter. As it was, Newcastle's head coach was happy enough when the scrap between the teams occupying the bottom two places in the Aviva Premiership finished without a winner on Tyneside last night.

With four minutes remaining, Tait's Falcons were trailing 16-9 and staring at an eight-point gap opening up between themselves and Worcester at the foot of the table. But then Michael Mayhew, Newcastle's replacement hooker, burrowed over from close range, and Jimmy Gopperth landed the conversion. All of which, after the visitors had looked all but home and hosed, left the scores on the night all square.

The contest had quickly settled into a tight struggle for field position, the respective outside halves invariably putting boot to ball whenever it came their way. Inevitably, it also became a duel between the No 10s on the goal-kicking front, Gopperth and Joe Carlisle landing a pair apiece to leave the scorers tied at 6-6 at the end of opening quarter.

It was tall, upright figure of Carlisle, preferred as a starting fly-half for the Warriors to the veteran Andy Goode, who made the first decisive break, the 23-year-old taking a feed from a midfield scrum in the 27th minute and paving the way for sometime England scrum-half Shaun Perry to scamper through on the left. Carlisle added the extras, giving the Warriors a 13-6 advantage at the interval.

Immediately after the break Newcastle went into kitchen sink mode, but their only reward was another penalty by Gopperth. The frustration continued for the Falcons when Corne Uys spilled his pass with the try-line in sight. It looked a costly error when Goode emerged from the bench to bang over a penalty, but then Mayhew and Gopperth came to the rescue for the Falcons, leaving drawn expressions all round.

Newcastle Goosen, A Tait, Uys, Helleur (Eves, 63), Sheriffe, Gopperth, Pasqualin, Shiells (Wells, 55), Graham (M Mayhew, 73), Murray, Hudson, Van der Heijden (Swinson, 51), Wilson, Welch (Pennycook, 66), Hogg. Replacements not used Hall, Pilgrim, Manning.

Worcester Classens, Garvey, Grove, Rasmussen, Benjamin, Carlisle (Goode, 63), Perry, Mullan, Lutui (Shervington, 70), Taumoepeau, Percival, Gillies, Best, Betty, C. Jones. Replacements Porter, Shervington, Tomaszczyk, Balding, Kvesic, Frost, Pennell.

Referee W Barnes (RFU).