London Wasps 24 Newcastle Falcons 6: Cipriani kicks past Wilkinson

New kid a chip off the old block as commanding performance puts Wasps into semi-final draw
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The Independent Online

Wasps made it through to this afternoon's draw for the semi-finals of the EDF Energy Cup after toying with Newcastle much as a cat would torture a wounded bird, a Falcon even. Reinforced by Jonny Wilkinson for the first time since the World Cup, Newcastle had a huge amount of ball yet were unable to rip any holes in Wasps' defensive blanket. This kind of negative positivity that the European champions wreak on weaker opponents is rarely emotionally uplifting but it is damned effective.

Each side had a place in the last four within reach if they won while the individualistic appeal to the floating voter lay in Wilkinson and Toby Flood returning to the Newcastle back line and Phil Vickery the latter, like Wilkinson, waylaid for the last six weeks to the Wasps front row. If Newcastle had hoped the net effect would be an improvement on their 23-point beating here in the Premiership six days previously, they were correct, but by only an insignificant margin.

England's World Cup centre Mathew Tait continued in the absence of the injured Matt Burke his conversion to full-back. Like many a raw recruit before him, Tait discovered being the last line of defence with the wind, rain and indeed hail in your face is no fun. He was caught marginally out of position for Wasps' first try, though Tom May, on the wing, was unable to waylay Eoin Reddan as Wasps' Irish scrum-half chipped and chased to the left corner. Newcastle had just turned Wasps over a rare fillip against the elements until the No 8, Phil Dowson, spilled the ball in a tackle.

The conditions dictated a kicking game, which tested Wilkinson's healed ankle, and Danny Cipriani, Wasps' young pretender to Wilkinson's England crown, did all he needed to do while he had the wind behind him. Cipriani has yet to win a full cap, though he came close in the preamble to the World Cup only for England's head coach, Brian Ashton, to decide it was too much too soon. In one regard, though, the 20-year-old has followed in the footsteps of his club captain, Lawrence Dallaglio, having last week been the subject of a News of the World kiss'*'tell story.

So much for a Wasp and his sting; eight minutes after Reddan's try, the home side were in again. Tait attempted to slide and scoop up possession close to his line but his left wing, John Rudd, got there first to kick it dead and concede a five-metre scrum.

Four times in a row the scrum went up or down; after the second, Jon Golding, the Newcastle loose-head prop, was warned by the referee, Malcolm Changleng. After the third, Golding was sent to the sin-bin. At the fourth, with Joe McDonnell called from the Newcastle bench as a reinforcement rather than the new All Black signing, Carl Hayman, the referee awarded a penalty try. Wasps' tight-head, Tim Payne, got the congratulations of his mates for tying Dave Wilson in knots and Cipriani converted.

Hayman, the giant tight-head whose salary is said to be in proportion to his physical dimensions, did get to swap his traditional black for Newcastle's change all-white at half-time, when the broad-shouldered young Englishman, Wilson, was withdrawn to lick his wounds. After 43 minutes Newcastle won a penalty against Payne which Wilkinson dispatched from 30 metres. An immediate tick in Hayman's credit column. Then Wilkinson kicked another three points when Wasps went in at the side of a ruck: 18-6.

It was a temporary wobble. Tait had a run through several defenders which brought back memories of Paris earlier in the autumn but, like so much Newcastle did, it led to nothing.

Wasps had little recourse to their threequarters, but their forward driving yielded penalties which allowed Cipriani to kick them out to 21-6, and kick Newcastle twice winners of the old RFU Cup in their current guise and twice as Gosforth in the 1970s out of the tournament. Wasps, winners of the inaugural Anglo-Welsh version in 2006, stride on to Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Cup next Saturday.

London Wasps: M van Gisbergen; P Sackey (J Lewsey, 70), F Waters, R Flutey, T Voyce; D Cipriani, E Reddan (S Amor, 74); T Payne, J Ward (R Webber, 74), P Vickery, S Shaw (R Birkett, 70), G Skivington, J Hart (D Leo, 78), L Dallaglio (capt), J Haskell.

Newcastle Falcons: M Tait; T May, J Noon, T Flood, J Rudd (T Visser, 64); J Wilkinson, J Grindal (L Dickson, 59); J Golding (J McDonnell, 54), M Thompson (A Long, 47), D Wilson (C Hayman, 40), A Perry (B Wilson, 64), M Sorenson, G Parling, P Dowson (capt, McDonnell, 32-42), B Woods.

Referee: M Changleng (Scotland).