Wasps are left kicking themselves after loss

Wasps 6 Newcastle 12
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The Independent Online

Newcastle leap-frogged from the dead zone to sixth with their first victory at Adams Park, a triumph based on a superb scrum and superior goal-kicking.

In freezing conditions, Newcastle defended intelligently and deserved a win that made their recent home defeat by rock-bottom Leeds all the more surprising.

But Wasps were disappointing, using three different goal-kickers and taking a serious scrummaging lesson.

The start was peppered by errors – handling and kicking – presenting both teams with early opportunities to activate the scoreboard.

Dave Walder's first-minute penalty punished Newcastle's failure to cope with the kick-off, and Jimmy Gopperth's equalising kick four minutes later ought to have blown away all cobwebs. But individual mistakes prevailed, and the only constant was the supremacy of the visiting scrum, which repeatedly crunched and mangled Wasps.

Walder, preferred to Danny Cipriani at fly-half, began the game the most successful goal-kicker in the Guinness Premiership, a return of 81.5 percent. But two misses in the opening quarter after his opening strike damaged his stats and let Newcastle off the hook.

It could have been worse, however. Gopperth stepped up for a reasonably simple penalty in front of the posts after 24 minutes but, in keeping with the game overall, made a hash of it.

The game burst to life in the 27th minute when David Lemi and Cipriani set things in motion on the left and 12 phases later Simon Shaw ploughed over. Referee Tim Wigglesworth consulted TV match official Roy Marfleet, who ruled that Newcastle captain Carl Hayman had succeeded in keeping the ball off the ground.

Then Wigglesworth signalled advantage to Wasps, who gaily charged off to the opposite side of the field, and kept enjoying themselves so long that the referee got fed up waiting and yelled "advantage over". Scrum-half Mark Robinson was indignant when told the "advantage" was past its sell-by date, and handed a scrum instead.

Gopperth then blasted a 50-yard penalty against the bar, but Newcastle's scrum was mighty, and Wigglesworth warned Wasps captain John Hart that Bob Baker's third failure to match Jon Golding was his last before a trip to the sin-bin.

Gopperth did kick the resultant penalty, and although his fifth kick fell under the bar, Newcastle ended a forgettable half 6-3 in front.

But it was no surprise when Baker departed the match during the break, replaced by new signing, Samoan international Sakaria Taulafo. Little changed, however, and another scrum mangling led to Gopperth hoofing home his third goal on 48 minutes.

Shortly after, Walder received the dreaded beckoning finger from coach Shaun Edwards, who moved Cipriani up to fly-half and Mark van Gisbergen to full-back. But when Cipriani was handed his first chance to kick for goal, it sailed wide.

Sentiment went out the window when Wasps got another chance on 66 minutes, the bench demanding that Van Gisbergen become their third kicker in one game, and he delivered.

But when they had a last-gasp chance to steal it, Dan Ward-Smith summed up Wasps' evening by taking the wrong option.

Scorers: Wasps: Penalties Walder, van Gisbergen; Newcastle: Penalties Gopperth (4).

Wasps: D Cipriani; T Varndell, D Waldouck, S Kefu (Jacobs 66), D Lemi; D Walder (van Gisbergen, 51), M Robinson; T Payne, R Webber, B Baker (Taulafo, 40), S Shaw, G Skivington (Leo, 69), J Hart, W Matthews, D Ward-Smith.

Newcastle: A Tait; G Bobo, R Vickerman (Biggs, 52), T Tu'ipulotu, C Amesbury (Miller, 60); J Gopperth, H Charlton (Miller, 66); J Golding (Ward, 56), R Vickers (Thompson, 79), C Hayman, J Hudson, T Swinson, J Afu, B Wilson (Welch, 75), F Levi.

Referee: T Wigglesworth (RFU).