Wasps profit after Newcastle falter on finishing line

Wasps 30 Newcastle 26
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The Independent Online

Simon Shaw was last night called up by England and flew out to Australia where he will remain on stand-by until a decision is made on the severity of lock Danny Grewcock's injured left hand.

Grewcock suffered the injury against Uruguay in yesterday's final pool game, but more time is needed to assess it so, rather like Martyn Wood last month, Shaw will fly out but will remain in purdah and will not be allowed any contact with the England squad.

The call by his country meant that Shaw had to pull out of this match, and he was therefore doubly lucky. He did not miss anything special. The greasy and cold conditions did not help what turned into a scrappy, shapeless match.

Newcastle were deserving of more than the solitary point for remaining within seven points of their opponents, although to give away a penalty in the last seconds of the game, as the Falcons did, when they were just a metre from the Wasps line and pressing hard, was not particularly bright.

The complexion of the match was entirely different in the early stages and when John Rudd thundered over for Wasps' first try in the third minute after some fleet footwork by the hooker, Phil Greening, there were fears of a runaway home win.

That impression was reinforced when their acting captain, Craig Dowd, flopped over after snapping up a pop-up pass from the scrum-half, Peter Richards. With Mark Van Gisbergen converting both tries, it looked bleak for Newcastle, who just had Dave Walder's first penalty to their name at that point.

But back came the Newcastle pack, laying a platform of possession and applying heavy pressure. Wasps cracked for the first time in the 18th minute. A quick piece of thinking by the Newcastle scrum-half, Hall Charlton, who took a quick tap penalty to open up the Wasps' defence, allowed the Falcons captain, Hugh Vyvyan, to go over in the left-hand corner. Walder added the difficult conversion. Van Gisbergen responded for Wasps with a penalty to give the home side a 17-10 lead at the interval.

After the break, a daft try, when Wasps' Shane Roiser was allowed to intercept Phil Godman's attempted pass and run unchallenged fully 60 metres, set Newcastle's cause back further, especially since Van Gisbergen was landing all of his kicks - he finished with a perfect six out of six.

But when Jamie Noon sliced through the cover at an acute angle and opened things up for Michael Stephenson, the left wing closed the gap once more.

If Dave Walder had just managed to knock over a couple more kicks it might well have been a different story. As it was, his third penalty rattled Wasps and inspired his team to that one last great surge to the line. But that was as far as they got.

Wasps: Tries Rudd, Dowd, Roiser; Conversions Van Gisbergen 3; Penalties Van Gisbergen 3. Newcastle: Tries Vyvyan, Britz; Conversion Walder; Penalties Walder 3.

Wasps: T Voyce; S Roiser, F Waters, M Denney (A Erinle, 40-41 and 61), J Rudd; M Van Gisbergen, P Richards; T Payne, P Greening (T Leota, 53), C Dowd (capt), M Purdy, R Birkett, P Volley, I Clarke, J O'Connor.

Newcastle: D Walder; T May, J Noon, M Mayerhofler, M Stephenson; P Godman (B Gollings, 54), H Charlton; I Peel (D Wilson, h-t), N Makin, M Ward, G Archer, C Hamilton (P Dowson, 73), J Dunbar, H Vyvyan (capt), W Britz.

Referee: S Leyshon (Bristol)