Wasps sink spirited Newcastle as title challenge gathers speed

Wasps 33 Newcastle 16

With that ominous talent for making slow starts to a season hugely rewarding, Wasps climbed up to fourth in the Aviva Premiership with an ultimately emphatic victory.

Armed with the relentless drive of Wales No 8 Andy Powell and the intelligence and kicking prowess of former England fly-half Dave Walder, Wasps were guilty only of taking too long to kill off their visitors.

On a weekend that justified the growing belief in the tightest Premiership since the league began, Wasps plonked themselves right in the middle of the title-chase, leaving Newcastle glancing over their shoulders at rapidly improving Leeds.

As the opening quarter unfolded, neutrals had little difficulty ascertaining which side were aiming for the stars. With England centre Riki Flutey making his first start since suffering a calf injury in October, Wasps steamed into a 6-0 lead in as many minutes via two Walder penalties, and he should have kicked a third, electing instead for a quick tap and go that actually went nowhere.

Instead, Newcastle re-grouped and cut loose, earning points of their own with a Jimmy Gopperth penalty in the 17th minute. This encouraged even bolder, wider play from the visitors who then went and spoiled it all by going offside with little danger evident, Walder delivering the deserved punishment on 25 minutes.

A galloping break by full-back Richard Haughton put Wasps in a strong attacking position in enemy territory, but a succession of reset scrums followed by some dim lateral passing by the home side let Newcastle off the hook.

Zak Taulafo was less than impressed when a flag indicated he was in touch when 'scoring' down by the left-wing flag on 35 minutes, but the flag was correct.

However, the inevitable try duly arrived six minutes from the interval. Nic Berry whipped the ball to Walder who managed to offload to captain Ben Jacobs despite being tackled. Jacobs was hit from all sides, but the centre managed to barrel goalwards to score by the post, Walder converting.

Just when you thought the flow was heading one way, Newcastle scored a try from nothing. They had possession without seeming to make much headway, but when Redford Pennycook blasted through the defence, his offload released Gopperth to win a sprint for the line. The fly-half then converted his own try, creating an interval scoreline that barely reflected what had gone before.

Wasps continued to batter away at their guests after the break without exhibiting the guile to achieve a lead worthy of their efforts. One long-term siege ended with referee Chris White wearily raising his arm to award Newcastle a penalty on their own line as the home side grew impatient and thus illegal.

As the match entered the final quarter, Walder increased the lead with his fourth penalty, awarded for pulling a player back off the ball.

Yet within minutes, and with their first real attack of the half, Newcastle cut back the deficit as Gopperth arrowed home a fine kick. The sense of frustration in Wasps ranks was tangible, given their struggle to build a convincing lead. And when Serge Betsen hauled down a maul under White's nose minutes later, Gopperth boomed home the penalty with nerveless accuracy.

That was the moment – fold or fight back. Wasps did the latter, and it was the France back-row warhorse Betsen who actually grounded the ball at the end of a very well sustained rolling maul.

Walder's conversion, his sixth successful kick from seven attempts, sucked the resistance from Newcastle, whose determination under fire came so close to achieving an upset. A late penalty try, converted by Walder, completed the job.

Scorers: Wasps: Tries Jacobs, Betsen, penalty try; Conversions Walder 3; Penalties Walder 4. Newcastle: Try Gopperth; Conversion Gopperth; Penalties Gopperth 3.

Wasps R Haughton; T Varndell, B Jacobs (capt), R Flutey (S Kefu, 71), D Lemi; D Walder, N Berry; T Payne (C Beech, 67), T Lindsay, Z Taulafo (B Broster, 50), S Shaw, J Cannon (M van Gisbergen, 67), W Matthews (S Betsen, 41), A Powell, J Worsley.

Newcastle J Manning (J Fitzpatrick, 64); L Fielden, T Tu'ipulotu, L Eves (D Williams, 60), G Bobo; J Gopperth, M Young (J Spice, 60); G Shiels (M Ward, 71), M Thompson, K Brookes, J Hudson (F Levi, 71), T Swinson, W Welch, A Hogg, R Pennycook (M Wilson, 56).

Referee C White (England)

News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionPart of 'best-selling' Demeter scent range
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering