Newcastle Falcons took only a losing bonus point from Friday night’s Kingston Park nail-biter as a late penalty from Lima Sopoaga clinched a Gallagher Premiership victory for Wasps.
Newcastle began the game brightly and led 15-13 at half-time, enjoying a prolonged period of possession within the Wasps during the early exchanges.
Sinoti Sinoti was solid under the high ball while breaks from Simon Hammersley and Vereniki Goneva bought the home side some promising field position.
Wasps had the first opportunity for points but failed to make it count when Lima Sopoaga’s long-range penalty attempt was fired short and wide.
It proved only a temporary reprieve as the visitors got the scoring underway on 13 minutes, TMO Shaun Davey deeming Josh Bassett to have grounded from Sopoaga’s grubber to the left corner.
Sopoaga’s conversion flew wide of the mark and within five minutes the teams were level again, Newcastle’s flowing attack ending with a try for Mark Wilson down the left as he collected an inside offload from a twinkle-toed Sinoti.
Sopoaga’s 22nd-minute penalty put the visitors back in front after Michael Le Bourgeois’s try was chalked off by the TMO, Newcastle themselves having a score denied on the video when Wilson felt he had grounded from a close-range pick and go.
The TMO finally ruled in the Falcons’ favour after a period of incessant pressure on the half-hour mark, three penalties having been kicked to the corner before the spell finally ended with centre Johnny Williams ploughing through a number of bodies near the posts.
Flood added the simple conversion for a 12-8 lead, the fly-half putting over a further penalty before Wasps reduced the half-time deficit to just two points as a five-metre scrum saw the ball floated wide for Marcus Watson to score an unconverted try down the right.
Newcastle began the second half the brighter and earned due rewards for their dominance, a Gary Graham line-break an d support running from Sinoti setting up a second try for Williams as the centre showed his power to ground the ball amid a heap of bodies near the goal posts.
Flood added the conversion from in front to establish a nine-point buffer, and it almost became more when the TMO ruled out a Tom Penny try in the right corner after a peach of a midfield line from Adam Brocklebank got the hosts into the red zone.
Wasps narrowed the arrears to two on the hour mark when South African centre Juan de Jongh bounced out of a tackle to score a converted try near the posts, the visitors rolling on a powerful bench including Nathan Hughes, Elliot Daly and Dan Robson for the closing quarter.
The game turned in their favour eight minutes from time when a 45-metre penalty from Sopoaga crept over the crossbar by a matter of millimetres to pout the visitors in front by a single point, the assembled crowd of 6,904 all contributing to an outstanding atmosphere as both sets of players threw everything at it.
Sadly for the Falcons their endeavour earned no more than a losing bonus point, Wasps holding out in a typically tense finale.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley (Tom Penny, 45), 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Sonatane Takulua; 1 Adam Brocklebank (Sami Mavinga, 74), 2 George McGuigan (Santiago Socino, 69), 3 Logovi'i Mulipola (Paul Mullen, 74), 4 Calum Green, 5 Tevita Cavubati (Will Witty, 61), 6 Gary Graham, 7 Will Welch (captain, Callum Chick, 74), 8 Mark Wilson.
Falcons scorers - Tries: Mark Wilson, Johnny Williams 2. Conversions: Toby Flood 2. Penalties: Toby Flood.
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Marcus Watson (Elliot Daly, 47), 13 Juan De Jongh, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Joe Simpson (Dan Robson, 47); 1 Zurabi Zhvania (Ben Harris, 61), 2 Tom Cruse (Tommy Taylor, 51), 3 Will Stuart (Kieran Brookes, 61), 4 Will Rowlands, 5 James Gaskell (Kearnan Myall, 42), 6 Ashley Johnson (captain), 7 Ben Morris (Nathan Hughes, 51), 8 Nizaam Carr.
Wasps scorers - Tries: Josh Bassett, Marcus Watson, Juan de Jongh. Conversions: Lima Sopoaga. Penalties: Lima Sopoaga 2.
Referee: Karl Dickson. Attendance: 6,904.
De Jongh 59
Hammersley, Goneva, Harris, Williams, Sinoti, Flood, Takulua, Brocklebank, McGuigan, Mulipola, Green, Cavubati, Graham, Welch, Wilson
Replacements Socino, Mavinga, Mullen, Witty, Chick, Stuart, Hodgson, Penny
Miller, Watson, De Jongh, Le Bourgeois, Bassett, Sopoaga, Simpson, Zhvania, Cruse, Stuart, Rowlands, Gaskell, Johnson, Morris, Carr
Replacements Taylor, Harris, Brookes, Myall, Hughes, Robson, Searle, Daly
referee: Karl Dickson
assistant: Peter Allan
assistant: Hamish Smales
TMO: Sean Davey