Wilkinson's aim falls just short

Saracens 22 - Newcastle 20
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Jonny Wilkinson could not reproduce his drop-goal heroics as Newcastle, the defending champions, were knocked out of the Powergen Cup by Saracens.

Jonny Wilkinson could not reproduce his drop-goal heroics as Newcastle, the defending champions, were knocked out of the Powergen Cup by Saracens.

The England fly-half, continuing his rehabilitation from injury, was introduced at half-time with Newcastle trailing 17-5 and sparked a spirited second-half fightback. His jinking run set up Michael Stephenson for the try which hauled Newcastle, who had taken a first-half pummelling in the forwards, to within two points of a powerful, direct Saracens side.

But Wilkinson failed with the touchline conversion and he then missed with successive drop goal attempts that would have sealed a dramatic last-gasp victory.

"I was disappointed that both of the drops were hit and hope," he said. "If I had my chance again I would like to have kept the ball in hand. Once I dropped the ball on the second attempt I knew it was gone, it fell awkwardly."

Wilkinson is known to agonise over such misses and has still not watched the World Cup final, which he won for England with a drop-goal, in case he spots any mistakes in his game. Asked if he would beat himself up over yesterday's two misses, he replied, "In my own time."

Saracens will enter today's quarter-final draw with the chance to take something from a disappointing season at Vicarage Road. Steve Diamond took over the reins from Rod Kafer last week, promising to instil a distinctive, direct style. Newcastle came expecting it but they could not cope with Saracens' power up front.

Wilkinson was introduced at half-time and he made a significant impact as Newcastle fought back. "It was nice to be able to get out there and do something," he said.

Newcastle director of rugby Rob Andrew would not be drawn on when Wilkinson, after two appearances off the bench, might start a game.

"He is looking sharp, he is very fit and his game reaction will pick up the more games he plays," Andrew said. "He has been out a long time and he'll be disappointed.

"I was confident we were going to win right through to the end. We only needed a penalty or a drop goal to go over. Sometimes they go over, sometimes they don't. Maybe he will save one for the Heineken Cup final."

Saracens: Tries: Bartholomeusz, Randell 2. Cons: Jackson 2. Pens: Jackson. Newcastle: Tries: Grimes, Tait, Stephenson. Cons: Wilkinson. Pens: Wilkinson.

Saracens: Bartholomeusz; Haughton, Sorrell, Harris (Castaignède, 57), Vaikona; Jackson, Williams (Raulini, 76); Yates (Lloyd, 63), Cairns (Kyriacou, 80), Visagie, S Raiwalui, Fullarton (Chesney, 76), Randell, Sanderson, Vyvyan (Seymour, 54).

Newcastle: Shaw; May, Noon, Mayerhofler (Tait, 47), Stephenson; Walder (Wilkinson, 40), Charlton; Peel (Isaacson, 70), Thompson (Long, 40), Ward, Gross (McCarthy, 70), Grimes, Charvis, Harris, Dowson.

Referee: C White (Gloucestershire).

Comments