Wasps climb to third
Wasps have kept alive their hopes of a home semi-final in the Guinness Premiership play-offs after beating Newcastle 32-13.
Last Updated: 07/05/08 11:32pm
Wasps have climbed to third place in the Guinness Premiership after beating Newcastle 32-13, a result which keeps alive their hopes of a home semi-final in the play-offs.
The win, their fifth in a row away from home, took Ian McGeechan's men above Sale and Harlequins in the table and a sixth at the expense of relegated Leeds in Saturday's final programme could secure a second-placed finish.
An 80-metre try from England winger Paul Sackey was the highlight for the visitors who, even without the rested trio of Lawrence Dallaglio, Raphael Ibanez and Tom Voyce, had too much pace and guile for their opponents.
Newcastle made nine changes to the side that beat Leicester and it showed as Wasps, whose eight-match winning run came to grief at leaders Gloucester on Sunday, controlled a scrappy encounter.
England fly-half Danny Cipriani, nominated earlier on Wednesday for the PRA players' player of the year, kicked five goals from six attempts to help clinch a third win of the season over the Falcons - but their first at Kingston Park for four years.
With Jonny Wilkinson absent, the 10,200 capacity crowd were denied one last chance to see Matthew Tait, Toby Flood and Ben Woods, who are all leaving after Saturday's final game at Worcester.
Tait was a late withdrawal with a hip injury, paving the way for younger brother Alex to start but his ninth appearance lasted only 12 minutes before he departed with a cut head.
Falcon Tom May put the evening's first points on the board with a penalty but Wasps soon seized the attacking initiative, full-back Ricki Flutey making up for his inability to deal with the high ball by making a series of breaks from deep.
Sackey was also a threat and Cipriani's quick hands posed Newcastle problems aplenty yet both Wasps' first-half tries came courtesy of forward play, with flankers James Haskell and Tom Rees going over from close range.
Newcastle's first-half tries were something of a contrast, albeit scored against the run of play.
The first was inspired by young fly-half Rob Miller, the 18-year-old making only his third appearance because of injury to Tait and making the most of the opportunity by jinking through the heart of the Wasps defence before his long pass gave centre May a clear run to the line.
Right winger Ollie Phillips scored the Falcons' other try, collecting Steve Jones' perfectly-judged kick after number eight Russell Winter had seized on a couple of Wasps' handling errors.
While May and Miller missed both conversions between them, Cipriani kicked a penalty and a conversion to nudge his side 15-13 ahead at half time.
Wasps' number 10 was then involved in the best try of the match three minutes into the second half - the visitors turning over possession deep inside their own half and sweeping the ball along the line until Cipriani found a gap.
His pass then allowed Sackey to finish off the 80-metre move in fine style.
Cipriani's touchline conversion extended Wasps' lead to 22-13 lead and he then extended that to 12 points thanks to a 59th-minute penalty.
Wasps maintained their domination but only scored their bonus-point try five minutes from the end when winger Josh Lewsey sliced through Newcastle's defence and Cipriani kicked his fifth goal.