Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Wasps claim hard-fought win

Ashley Johnson scored one of to tries for Wasps
Ashley Johnson scored one of to tries for Wasps

Wasps put the disappointment of last Saturday's last minute defeat firmly to rest with a hard-fought 17-12 victory over struggling Newcastle at a wet and windy Kingston Park.

Hit by injury and illness, the Falcons were 10-3 down at the break and Wasps, with the wind at their backs in the second half, never looked in any danger from Newcastle to move up and away from the basement battle.

Newcastle, at least, ended their Premiership try drought through Noah Cato and a last-gasp effort through skipper Will Welch to nail a losing bonus point.

The Falcons' first for try two months in the Premiership came 10 minutes into the second half but Wasps back row duo Sam Jones and Ashley Johnson gave Newcastle a lesson in taking their chances.

The home side did make a positive start with two penalties into the Wasps 22 in the opening five minutes, opting for touch and a catch and drive each time. It looked as if the Falcons would end their try drought as they followed up with a couple of pick and drives but Carlo del Fava dived in to give away a costly penalty in a good attacking position.

James Fitzpatrick was looking lively with a couple of charging runs and Wasps were finding it hard to get out of their own half before a fortunate 12th minute try.

Backtracking Alex Tait finally collected Andy Goode's chip and looked to have done enough to set up the ruck only for Joe Launchbury to charge down Chris Pilgrim's kick. The ball rebounded off the post and back towards Pilgrim who could not hold on to it and number eight Sam Jones slithered throughout to score and Goode converted for 7-0.

Goode missed a 20th minute penalty, slipping on the sodden pitch as he kicked but he charged down Phil Godman's attempted clearance to keep up the pressure on the Falcons which was relieved when James Haskell's overeagerness led to a penalty which Newcastle gratefully cleared downfield.

However, the two chargedowns emphatically put Wasps on the front foot and five phases of driving play ended in a Goode penalty in the 34th minute to make it 10-0.

Godman should have made it 10-3 just before half-time but his kick at goal swirled wide on the wind as Newcastle ended the half with a decent attack involving Tait and Jamie Helleur before Carlo Festuccia transgressed at the breakdown.

All of Newcastle's problems were highlighted early in the second half when they strung together 14 phases without really making any real headway until Cato had the opportunity to real ease Tait, but elected to try and chip through and his kick was blocked and then Newcastle lost the ball at the breakdown much to the frustration of the 6,146 crowd.

He did it again to end another period of Newcastle pressure and it proved costly, with Wasps hammering the ball downfield and Hogg was forced to run it into touch.

Goode, who bossed the game on his 200th Premiership appearance, tried a chip close to the Falcons post with a penalty advantage in the bag and then went to touch in the corner for the catch and drive. Ashley Johnson duly obliged with the try and Goode converted for Wasps to lead 17-0 in the 53rd minute.

Cato did make amends by getting on the end of a decent Falcons move with Godman finding Tait with a quick pass and the full back slipped the ball back inside for Cato to prove he can finish.

It was only Newcastle's fourth Premiership try of the season and with Godman unable to convert it was 17-5 and the Falcons looked likely to end up with nothing from the match until a frantic last few minutes.

The Falcons piled on the pressure and elected to run three penalties close to the Wasps line and were rewarded with Welch's try and Godman's conversion for the losing bonus point.

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