Wasps 21 Newcastle 6: Dallaglio overpowers Newcastle in the wet

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The Independent Online

It started promisingly - for Wasps and their fans at least - with a try inside three minutes. The men in black looked mean, moody and bordering on magnificent. It ended somewhat differently.

Rain fell throughout - consequently it was more muddy than moody - but at least Wasps' loose forwards flourished, not least Lawrence Dallaglio, who looks as if his England career might not be over.

And, on a skating rink of a pitch, the foraging Joe Worsley, playing at openside for a change and starting to hit top gear as the Six Nations approaches, helped his captain to master the elements.

The Wasps head coach Shaun Edwards, rarely if ever given to praise, said: "I'd be surprised if Lawrence Dallaglio didn't feature in the Six Nations, because he is one of the best players of all time. I've played under captains like Ellery Hanley and Dean Bell and he is up there with them - if not better than all of them as a captain."

Worsley and Dallaglio did get added power and impetus from the England lock Simon Shaw and Alistair McKenzie. The prop threw himself at rucks, hard places and all unyielding points in between, as often as not emerging with the ball. What with John Hart doing his stuff on the blind-side, Wasps were able to dominate in this most important area of the game.

Newcastle's run of four wins was ended in a game performance, where while not hopelessly outplayed they just lacked a sense of purpose and direction - the latter no easy thing with boots and bodies flying one way on the treacherous surface and the ball, as often as not, flying the other.

The Falcons' director of rugby, Rob Andrew, admitted: "We missed Jonny Wilkinson." Andrew had already owned up to the fact that the late withdrawal of Wilkinson's fly-half stand-in Dave Walder with a head injury was a blow.

"Dave would have given us just a little bit more control from the set-piece. At this time of year and in these conditions it is important to go with the grunt in the Premiership. Perhaps because of that we lacked a little spark in the loose. So we could have done with Jonny because he has an awful lot of energy and spark to help in attack."

What Newcastle attacks there were almost always foundered on the rocky shore of the Wasps' defence.

Wasps had no such trouble when they chose to run at the Newcastle line. Shaw, Dallaglio and Mark van Gisbergen were instrumental in providing Paul Sackey with the first of his two tries with just two minutes and 20 seconds on the clock.

Forty-three minutes after that first strike Sackey was crossing the line again - taking his tally of tries in all matches this season to nine - thanks to a brilliant break by Josh Lewsey, who is rapidly establishing himself in the outside-centre position. That is good news for England.

The Newcastle cause was not helped by the loss of their hooker Andy Long to the sin bin for coming in at the wrong side of a ruck. At least they kept out Wasps in that 10-minute spell, and almost certainly denied them a try-scoring bonus point in the process.

Although Wasps managed to snatch a third try - a 60-metre cameo featuring exquisite interplay between the replacement halfbacks Matt Dawson and Alex King - they just could not get that all-important fourth five-pointer.

Wasps: Tries Sackey 2, Dawson; Penalties Van Gisbergen, Staunton. Newcastle: Penalties Burke 2.

Wasps: M van Gisbergen; P Sackey, J Lewsey, S Abbott (A Erinle, 61), T Voyce; J Staunton (A King, 69), E Reddan (M Dawson, 69); A McKenzie (R Ibañez, 80), J Barrett, P Bracken (J Va'a, 40), S Shaw, G Skivington (M Purdy, 61; T Rees, 70), J Hart, J Worsley, L Dallaglio (capt).

Newcastle: M Burke; O Phillips, J Noon, M Mayerhofler, M Tait; T Flood, J Grindal; M Ward, A Long (M Thompson, 62), R Morris (D Wilson, 66), A Perry, G Parling, O Finegan (M McCarthy, 40), C Harris (M Thompson, 52-62; B Woods, 62), C Charvis (capt).

Referee: W Barnes (Surrey).

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