Ryan home alone

Wasps 13 Newcastle 5
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The Independent Online
THE SCENE in the Wasps bar told the story. As supporters waited for kick-off in their club match against Newcastle, they watched the start of the England international on the television and cheered enthusiastically for Lawrence Dallaglio.

"Come on, Lawrence," went the rallying cry, "well done, Lawrence." Lawrence Dallaglio was the toast of the club, its newest England cap, its new captain. And at the back of the throng stood Dean Ryan, Wasps' previous captain, now working for the opposition, silent and alone.

The manner of Ryan's departure, along with Rob Andrew, from Wasps to Newcastle has been one of the more regrettable incidents in this bewildering new professional age.

Nick Popplewell went north with them, Steve Bates signed up to join Newcastle at the start of next season, and such was the feeling at Wasps that Andy Gomarsall, the young scrum-half, went on Rugby Special to call those who had departed the "cancer" in the club.

Ryan was the only one of them at Sudbury yesterday and presided over proceedings from the touchline. What he saw was not particularly impressive from his old side. His new one, however, looked considerably improved in the short time he has been with them, and he found it impossible to mask his delight when, early in the second half, Dean Holder, the Newcastle blind-side flanker, jinked through the opposition midfield and carried his two tacklers over with him to score.

"We've been astounded by their reaction since we've been up there," Ryan said afterwards. "From a side careering out of the Second Division, they are becoming a very tidy outfit. They've come on so much."

Holder's try brought the score to 10-5, and heralded Newcastle's best period in the match. After being overpowered in the first half, when they conceded a try to Chris Wilkins, Newcastle often looked like they were the better outfit, certainly not a side wedged at the bottom of League Two. Such a performance was achieved without any of their new superstar signings, so the presence at No 6 of Peter Walton, the Scottish international, was barely felt throughout.

There were very few Wasps supporters there yesterday to witness what their old boys had managed to achieve up north, but the lack of interest in the fixture and the absence of any needle on the park both proved the point - that the bad sentiment of old had simmered and burnt itself out, that the wounds which Andrew and Ryan opened up have now healed.

"It wasn't that bizarre being back," Ryan said afterwards. "It will be bizarre when I'm playing in a League or Cup game against them. I think that it might be difficult then. Today, I wasn't playing and it was a very relaxed atmosphere."

And what was his reception on his old turf? "I've spoken to everybody," he said. "It's not difficult, I was here a long time. We were all good friends and nothing has changed. It's nice to see old friends. It's nice to be back."

Wasps: C Braithwaite; S Hunter, L Scrase, A Johnson, M Griffiths; G Gregory (capt), A Gomarsall; D Molloy, K Dunn, I Dunston, C Bickle, R Kinsey, T McGuire, C Wilkins, P Scrivener.

Newcastle: I McLennan; M Brummitt, R Wilkinson (capt), I Chandler, M Wilson; R Cramb, G Robson; M Long, N Frankland, P Van-Zandvliet, F Mitchell, R Metcalfe, P Walton, D Holder, C Mularki.

Referee: T Ashworth (London).