Newcastle Falcons took a pair of Aviva Premiership bonus points from high-flying Wasps on Friday night at a noisy Kingston Park Stadium.
The home side made the ideal start in front of a season-high crowd of 8,730, flying out of the blocks with two tries in the first three minutes on the back of an adventurous running mind-set.
The first was a well-worked blind-side move as Juan Pablo Socino put Alex Tait through a hole down the right, the full-back expertly converting a two-on-one as Sonatane Takulua’s supporting run was rewarded with a try for the Tongan scrum-half.
Straight from the restart the Falcons had their home fans at full volume once more, Marcus Watson pouncing on a loose ball and showing former Newcastle man Rob Miller a clean pair of heels with a scintillating 60-metre dash to the left corner.
Joel Hodgson added the extras for a 12-0 lead, Opeti Fonua maintaining the forward momentum with a big carry from the base of a midfield scrum before some fine scrambling defence from Takulua denied Kyle Eastmond a try as he ripped the ball loose in the act of scoring.
Skipper Mark Wilson was equally telling in defence with a perfectly-judged turnover from a ruck on his own 22, the open-side getting himself into a great position to earn a penalty from referee Tom Foley.
But Wasps do not lead the league in try-scoring for nothing, their attacking game bringing them back into the play when visiting fly-half Danny Cipriani brilliantly exploited an advantage on the 22 by chipping and regathering his own kick for a converted try between the posts.
That reduced the gap to five, and within a minute of the restart they had the lead when a kick ahead from Dan Robson saw Christian Wade winning the scramble for the loose ball.
Not that the Falcons had any intention of lying down, Rob Vickers putting them back ahead with a trademark try from a close-range ruck after a penalty down the right had been kicked to the corner.
The hosts extended their advantage to eight via Hodgson’s 40-metre penalty, Wasps centre Eastmond lucky to stay on the field after a high tackle on Tait.
But his side had the last say of the half with the very last play, a period of patient phases earning due reward when flanker Thomas Young barrelled over down the right for a converted try which left Newcastle a point to the good at 22-21.
Wasps withdrew Cipriani at half-time in a move which saw ex-Falcons great Jimmy Gopperth entering the fray, the Kiwi taking just four minutes to put his team in front with a try from Nathan Hughes’ quick tap.
Fit-again club captain Will Welch returned from two months out injured as the Falcons chipped three points back via a close-range Hodgson penalty, Gopperth replying in kind when a ruck infringement 10 metres from the Newcastle line handed him the simplest of kicks.
With fresh forward legs in the form of David Wilson and Ben Sowrey on the field the home side turned down a string of kickable penalties in favour of line-outs in the corner on 55 minutes, Wasps staving off a barrage of forward shoves before being awarded a relieving penalty of their own.
The 57th minute sin-binning of Wasps winger Josh Bassett for a deliberate knock-on aided the Falcons’ ongoing assault on the visitors’ half, although the scoring play proved frustratingly elusive despite the weight of attack being significantly in their favour.
Elliot Daly’s penalty from the half-way line put the home side outside of losing bonus point range with 15 minutes to go as Wasps demonstrated their ruthless streak, but the Falcons had a double consolation when Mark Wilson’s 78th minute try from a quick tap penalty handed them a pair of bonus points.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Belisario Agulla, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Marcus Watson (Dominic Waldouck, 11), 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Sonatane Takulua; 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Scott Lawson (Ben Sowrey, 51), 3 Jon Welsh (David Wilson, 51), 4 Calum Green, 5 Will Witty, 6 Ally Hogg (Tyrone Holmes, 58), 7 Mark Wilson (captain), 8 Opeti Fonua (Will Welch, 47).
Falcons scorers - Tries: Sonatane Takulua, Marcus Watson, Rob Vickers, Mark Wilson. Conversions: Joel Hodgson 2. Penalties: Joel Hodgson.
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Danny Cipriani (Jimmy Gopperth, 40), 9 Dan Robson (Joe Simpson, 51); 1 Matt Mullan (captain, Tom Bristow, 72)), 2 Tommy Taylor (Ashley Johnson, 49), 3 Marty Moore (Phil Swainston, 63), 4 Matt Symons (Will Rowlands, 71), 5 James Gaskell, 6 Thomas Young (Alex Rieder, 40), 7 Guy Thompson, 8 Nathan Hughes.
Sin-bin: Josh Bassett (56), Guy Thompson (76).
Wasps scorers - Tries: Danny Cipriani, Christian Wade, Thomas Young, Jimmy Gopperth. Conversions: Danny Cipriani 3, Jimmy Gopperth. Penalties: Jimmy Gopperth, Elliot Daly.
Referee: Tom Foley. Attendance: 8,730.
Tait, Goneva, Agulla, Socino, Watson, Hodgson, Takulua, Vickers, Lawson, Welsh, Green, Witty, Hogg, Wilson, Fonua
Replacements Sowrey, Harris, Wilson, Holmes, Welch, Egerton, Willis, Waldouck
Miller, Wade, Daly, Eastmond, Bassett, Cipriani, Robson, Mullan, Taylor, Moore, Symons, Gaskell, Young, Thompson, Hughes
Replacements Johnson, Bristow, Swainston, Rowlands, Rieder, Simpson, Gopperth, Armitage
referee: Tom Foley
assistant: Simon McConnell
assistant: Greg MacDonald
TMO: Stuart Terheege