Back in 2005, when Wales were on their way to the Grandest of Slams, Mike Ruddock compared his side to Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United football team free-scoring in attack but vulnerable in defence. On Tyneside yesterday he watched his Worcester team subject Newcastle Falcons to a rare home shut-out on the try front. Not that he could derive too much satisfaction from it as his Warriors left Kingston Park still without a Premiership win on the board this season.
Ruddock's men summoned sufficient attacking clout to plunder a try in each half courtesy of their fledgling left wing, Miles Benjamin, a graduate of King Edward's School, Birmingham (alma mater of JRR Tolkein, Bill Oddie, Enoch Powell and other leading lights) and their rather more seasoned right wing, Rico Gear, formerly of the All Black Finishing School. That they departed with the scant consolation of a bonus point was due in no small measure to that most unforgiving of rugby union fixtures: the left boot of Jonny Wilkinson.
Out of commission when England went to Cardiff at the start of that Welsh Grand Slam campaign, it was in clinical working order yesterday: landing four penalties out of five plus the 72nd-minute drop goal that ultimately salvaged a victory for a fitful Falcons side. "It's possibly a moral victory, but unfortunately that doesn't give you points in the league table," Ruddock lamented. "We scored two fantastic tries and had three others disallowed that we felt were perfectly good scores."
Rob Debney, the man with the whistle, felt otherwise unable to spot a score when the Worcester pack drove over en masse in either half and calling a forward pass when Thinus Delport crossed the line in the right corner just before Wilkinson's 40-yard drop. What was beyond any doubt was that the Falcons were there for the taking,
A pale shadow of the slick unit that won on the road against Saracens seven days previously, they sorely missed the midfield clout of their captain Jamie Noon, a late withdrawal after the hospitalisation of one of his children. They were fortunate that their wings were clipped just the twice: in the 29th minute, when the 19-year-old Benjamin marked his first Premiership start with a score in the left corner, and in the 56th minute, when Gear finished a slick handling move to the left of the posts. They were fortunate, too, that they had Wilkinson left boot to put Ruddock's brave Warriors to the sword.
Newcastle: Penalties Wilkinson 4; Drop goal Wilkinson. Worcester: Tries Benjamin, Gear; Conversion Crichton.
Newcastle: M Tait; T May, T Visser (O Phillips, 68), T Flood, J Rudd; J Wilkinson, J Grindal (L Dickson, 57); J Golding (M Ward,52), A Long (M Thompson, 57), C Hayman, A Perry, M Sorenson, G Parling (capt) (Winter, 56), B Woods, B Wilson.
Worcester: T Delport; R Gear, D Rasmussen, S Tuitupou, M Benjamin; L Crichton, M Powell (J Arr, 83); D Morris, A Lutui, T Taumoepeau (S Ruwers, 74), G Rawlinson, C Gillies (W Bowley, 66), T Wood (G Quinnell, 70), P Sanderson (capt), D Hickey.
Referee: R Debney (Leicestershire).Reuse content