Newcastle 13 Gloucester 20: Misfiring Wilkinson is outfoxed by Lamb

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The Independent Online

Tries from Iain Balshaw and Olivier Azam helped Gloucester to go back to the top of the Premiership yesterday with a competent victory at Kingston Park.

Newcastle turned over lots of possession and Jonny Wilkinson missed two kicks at goal, one of them a simple chance in the second half. The Falcons started well, however, with Mathew Tait and Tom May finding long touches to keep Gloucester in their own 22. When the Cherry and Whites strayed offside, Wilkinson kicked a fifth-minute penalty.

But then Newcastle turned the ball over just outside their own 22 and against some woeful tackling Ryan Lamb's reverse pass and Marco Bortolami's overhead effort set up what was, in the end, a simple try for Balshaw.

Lamb's conversion from the touchline made it 7-3 before Wilkinson was just short with a huge penalty attempt, from 55 metres. The Falcons went up a gear and May popped a pass to Russell Winter on the touchline. The big No 8 surged away before slipping the ball to Geoff Parling, the blind-side flanker, who scored in the corner. Wilkinson thumped over the conversion for Newcastle to lead 10-7.

The referee, Martin Fox, then showed a yellow card to the home open-side, Ben Woods, when he went for an interception and knocked on. It was a marginal offence and Fox also gave a penalty, but from Gloucester's kick to the corner Azam overthrew the line-out .

Azam made amends when Gloucester drove a line-out for a try after another penalty into the corner, but it looked very much as if the hooker had run into his own man just before he crossed the line. Lamb converted.

It needed a great tap tackle from Anthony Allen to deny Tait just after half-time after the full-back chipped ahead, kicked on and gathered, only to be stopped by the centre's tackle 15 metres out.

It was Tait again, on a surging run from Wilkinson's popped pass, who next threatened but referee Fox decided that the fly-half's short ball had been forward. Successive penalties followed against the Falcons for wheeling the scrum and not rolling away in the tackle and from the second Lamb made it 17-10.

Newcastle launched a breathtaking attack from 70 metres out but, crucially, they turned the ball over again, close to the Gloucester line. When Wilkinson then missed a simple penalty there seemed little hope for the home side.

With 10 minutes left, Wilkinson did kick a 40-metre penalty to make it 17-13 but Lamb knocked one over in front of the posts three minutes later to restore the seven-point gap.

Newcastle: Try Parling; Conversion Wilkinson; Penalties Wilkinson 2. Gloucester: Tries Balshaw, Azam; Conversions Lamb 2; Penalties Lamb 2.

Newcastle: M Tait; T May, J Noon, T Flood, J Rudd; J Wilkinson, L Dickson (J Grindal, 44); J Golding (D Wilson, 73), A Long, C Hayman, A Perry, M Sorenson, G Parling (B Wilson, 50), B Woods, R Winter (S Tomes, 73).

Gloucester: I Balshaw; J Simpson-Daniel, M Tindall, A Allen, L Vainikolo; R Lamb, G Cooper (R Lawson, 44); N Wood, O Azam, C Nieto, M Bortolami (capt; W James, 70), A Brown, A Strokosch, L Narraway, G Delve (P Buxton, 51).

Referee: M Fox (Leicestershire).

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