The homecoming: The perfect 10,001 hail their perfect 10

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The Independent Online

All was quiet in the aisles of Tesco's Kingston Park store yesterday. In the drinks section, where Philippa Wilkinson shopped until her son dropped England to victory in the World Cup final the previous Saturday, 12-packs of Castlemaine were on special offer for £6.84. Not that anyone could give a XXXX. They were all in a rush, it seemed, to pay homage down the road.

The week after Geoff Hurst shot England to victory in the football World Cup final in 1966, the hat-trick hero accompanied his wife, Judith, on their weekly shopping trip to a supermarket in Romford. He had been looking forward to a quiet cup of tea in the café.

"We were mobbed," he recalled. "Half the staff came pouring out from behind the counters, waving wrapping paper and bags to be autographed. The customers joined in, thrusting soap packets or bundles of bacon at me to sign. Poor Judith was swept away, still waving her shopping list."

It has been much the same for Jonny Wilkinson since the drop goal that brought home the Webb Ellis Cup. Cast into the sea of hero-worshippers at Heathrow on Tuesday morning, the poor chap looked like he was not so much waving as drowning. The flood has shown little sign of subsiding, and Jonny was up to his neck again yesterday.

The golden boy's parade with the golden pot had to be put back 15 minutes because of the crush outside the Kingston Park ground. Such was the scrum of minders and bodyguards it was difficult to catch sight of him when he emerged from the tunnel before kick-off. He duly displayed "Old Bill" to the four corners of the packed ground, with characteristic sheepishness. Few of the 10,001 crowd, the first sell-out at the new Kingston Park, could make out his pitch-side interview over the public address system, other than his opening: "It's really great to be here. I've had a fantastic reception". The rest was no doubt along the lines of being "very humbled, massively uplifted" and longing for "a bit of peace and quiet".

At least the naturally stand-offish stand-off was not alone in showing off the World Cup prize. England's vice-captain was joined by England's former captain, and Lawrence Dallaglio deserved every Geordie cheer that came his way. He did, after all, play a stormer of his own in the World Cup final, gaining the hard yards that allowed Wilkinson to feed Jason Robinson for England's try. He deserved a day's rest, too, having played in all seven matches and 580 minutes of England's campaign.

When kick-off came round, Jonny also had his feet up. If parading with the trophy had been an ordeal, sitting in the wings watching his fellow Falcons was little more comforting, particularly as they lost, 23-20, to Wasps. Wilkinson is not one for kicking his heels, especially not at the ground where he spends hour upon hour perfecting his scientific formula for bisecting the H.

He did get in a bit of spectating practice on Friday night at Percy Park, watching his brother Mark help the Falcons' Development XV beat New Zealand Youth 36-21. Yesterday, from his vantage point in the east stand, he must have shifted a little uneasily as his team were stung by a Wasps side bolstered by a trio of England World Cup squad players, Simon Shaw, Stuart Abbott and Joe Worsley.

The Falcons had their wings clipped twice in the opening quarter, Tom Voyce scoring on the right and Kenny Logan on the left. The Stirling man hung up his international boots after Scotland's World Cup quarter-final loss to the Wallabies. Like England's World Cup winner he has also shied away from the spotlight, spurning Hello! magazine's advances to cover his wedding to the former Gabby Yorath.

Whether Jonny Wilkinson has waved goodbye to life as he knew it remains to be seen. He was back on show on the pitch at half-time yesterday, drawing the raffle. By that stage his team-mates were on the scoreboard courtesy of Ben Gollings' try on the right and Dave Walder's conversion.

Wasps led 16-7 at the break, but then Tom May surged through on the right and Walder struck over the conversion and a penalty to make it 17-16. They held on to within two minutes of a famous victory. Then Peter Richards burst over on the right for Wasps, with his first touch as Rob Howley's replacement. Van Gisbergen converted, rendering Walder's injury- time penalty irrelevant.

Still, it was an afternoon to remember for the Falcons and their extended following. When they next play at home, against Valladolid in the Parker Pen Challenge Cup on 14 December, spectator number 10,001 will be wearing the No 10 shirt out on the pitch.

Newcastle: B Gollings; T May, J Noon, M Mayerhofler, M Stephenson; D Walder, H Charlton (J Grindal, 60); I Peel, M Thompson, M Ward (M Hurter, 63), G Archer (M Andrews, 65), S Grimes, E Taione, W Britz, H Vyvyan (capt).

Wasps: M van Gisbergen; T Voyce, F Waters, S Abbot (M Denney, 78), K Logan (J Rudd, 59); A King, R Howley (capt, P Richards, 77); C Dowd, T Leota (B Gotting, 59), W Green (T Payne, 65), S Shaw, R Birkett, J Worsley, J O'Connor (P Volley, 78), M Lock.

Referee: S Leyshon (Bristol).