Wasps 24 Newcastle 6: Cipriani hails efforts of Wasps pack

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The Independent Online

There was a large group of young fans clustered around the Adams Park players' exit, autograph books and programmes in hand, but was it the latest bout of Jonny-mania or the first symptoms of Cipriani fever?

In truth the exploits of the respective No 10s Wilkinson of Newcastle and Wasps' young man, Dan were not crucial to the home side's progress to the semi-finals of the EDF Energy Cup, where they will meet Leicester. "The Wasps forwards have been out of this world for the last five or six games," said Cipriani. "They got us on the front foot." Sensible lad, he could do well.

Wasps were certainly full of the joys of spring, no matter that it was chilly, windy, rainy December. The win left them top of Pool A and through to the last four at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium in March, when it will be spring. They lost to Leicester at the same stage of this Anglo-Welsh tournament last season. In knocking Newcastle out, England's form club bagged a classic shortside try by the in-form Irish scrum-half, Eoin Reddan, and a penalty try when a series of four scrums were judged to have gone up or down at the Falcons' doing.

"We're in good fettle at the moment, there's no point hiding that fact," said Wasps' captain, Lawrence Dallaglio. "We've won five on the bounce and it's the sort of form we need going down to Clermont, which is a great challenge for us as a club." It was a reference to Saturday's resumption of the Heineken Cup, when Wasps, the holders, go to the Massif Central, aiming to deny Clermont's giant wings Aurlien Rougerie and Vilimoni Delasau space and time in the way they suffocated Newcastle.

Poor John Fletcher, the Newcastle head coach, whose team was put in its place at the same venue for the second weekend running (the one before, it was a 35-12 defeat in the Premiership). At least now they have the All Black tighthead, Carl Hayman, up and running. Wilkinson was a little laboured after six weeks' out with an injured ankle and unable to get anything of note out of Wasps' press defence.

"What the hell we still play in the middle of winter for, God knows," Fletcher said; a desperate straw for a representative of Geordieland to be clutching at.

Cipriani tailored his game to the conditions and kicked all but one of his goals. The 20-year-old has been tipped for England honours since his mid-teens and the national side's head coach Brian Ashton has said he has the "wow factor". Cipriani also appears to have curbed some of his previous headstrong tendencies and leaving aside the unwelcome attention of red-top tabloids in his love life looks set for further promotion.

"Jonny is a legend of the game," said Cipriani, "and even to be compared with him is something I never thought I'd have said about me. Hopefully I'll keep playing for Wasps week in, week out and get a chance [for England] soon."

Scorers: Wasps Tries Reddan, penalty try; Conversion Cipriani; Penalties Cipriani 4. Newcastle Penalties Wilkinson 2.

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), J Haskell, L Dallaglio (capt).

Newcastle: 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, B Woods, P Dowson (capt, McDonnell, 32-42).

Referee: M Changleng (Scotland)

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