Newcastle v Wasps, Aviva Premiership, September 11
Wasps slump to Falcons defeat
September 10, 2010
Jimmy Gopperth refuses to let Simon Shaw escape at Kingston Park
© Getty Images
Fly-half Jimmy Gopperth booted 19 points as Newcastle produced a stirring fightback to beat Wasps 29-17 and give Alan Tait his maiden victory as head coach at Kingston Park.
Things had looked good for the visitors, who earlier on Friday denied a report that on-leave Wales centre Gavin Henson had signed for them, as tries from Tom Varndell and Ben Jacobs, plus seven points from Mark van Gisbergen's boot, had moved them into a 17-3 lead after 27 minutes.
But the game turned on its head when Redford Pennycook and Tim Swinson claimed close-range tries and Gopperth added four penalties and two conversions to an earlier three-pointer - 26 unanswered points seeing the hosts end as comfortable winners.
There had been little sign of what was to come when the home side, so poor in defeat at Sale last week, made a dismal start. Van Gisbergen's penalty attempt drifted wide but Varndell's superb chase saw him beat a lackadaisical trio of Falcons players to dot the ball down before it went dead. Van Gisbergen made no mistake with the conversion for a 7-0 lead after just two minutes.
Dave Walder then fell just short with a long-range fifth-minute penalty before the hosts finally entered the opposition half after 12 minutes when Micky Young, back in the side after being on the bench last week, pounced on loose ball at a Wasps scrum to send Luke Eves and Charlie Amesbury down the left flank with a lovely flick pass.
The Wasps scramble defence infringed and Gopperth, another man returning to the starting XV, stepped up to trim the lead to four points. But the visitors replied with an early contender for try of the season. Richard Haughton's wonderful one-handed pick-up saw him break from his own 10-metre line down the left and link with Varndell. The ball was moved inside to Tom Rees and Simon Shaw, with centre Jacobs applying the finishing touch. Van Gisbergen added the extras.
It took a crunching cover tackle from Newcastle wing Gcobani Bobo to prevent Haughton claiming Wasps' third as the visitors threatened to cut the Falcons apart. Despite that missed chance they increased their stranglehold with a Van Gisbergen penalty on the half-hour mark after Newcastle had collapsed a scrum.
Newcastle No.8 Ally Hogg gets an offload away © Getty Images
Newcastle needed to respond quickly and they did as Pennycook burrowed over after a series of pick and drives close to the Wasps line to mark his first start for his new club with a try, converted by Gopperth. And the deficit was soon back down to four points when former Blues stand-off Gopperth landed a three-pointer from halfway after Wasps prop Tim Payne turned in at a scrum.
The home side began the second half brightly as Young launched an enterprising counter along with Ally Hogg and Amesbury, but the winger knocked on as the cover drew in. Haughton's woeful pass in front of his own posts kept the hosts in the Wasps 22 and more close-range work helped lock Swinson crash over under the posts. Gopperth added the easy conversion to give Newcastle the lead for the first time in the match at 20-17.
Gopperth doubled the lead shortly after with his third penalty and from being in control at 17-3 up, Wasps were rocking. Poor discipline continued to hamper the visitors and Gopperth added two further penalties to further extend the Newcastle lead and seal the win as the ragged Londoners failed in a late bid to land a losing bonus point.