Falcons 34 Wasps 27

Saturday 13 November 2021

Newcastle Falcons had to mount a second-half comeback to record a winning start to their Premiership Rugby Cup campaign on Saturday.

Trailing Wasps 24-17 at the interval, they rallied to record the full five points after a creditable showing from a youthful visiting XV.

Newcastle began the game with plenty of momentum and incisive running – Alex Tait, Max Wright and Iwan Stephens all getting in behind the defensive line.

A barrage of close-range pick-and-go play saw the home side held up over the try-line on five minutes, and the visitors were reduced to 14 men when wing Luke Mehson saw yellow for a deliberate knock-on after another break from Newcastle captain Tom Penny.

The Falcons took swift advantage, grabbing their first try of the day on 12 minutes when Alex Tait scored in the right corner from a long, looping pass from Joel Hodgson.

Wasps responded with a try of their own when centre Olly Hartley cut against the grain and stepped his way through – Tommy Matthews’ conversion from the left-hand side putting his side two points to the good.

Matthews added a further three for the visitors with a well-struck penalty from 35 metres out, but Newcastle restored parity right from the restart when Will Montgomery collected an inside pop and raced into the right corner for an unconverted try.

The points kept on coming as Wasps replied with a James Tunney try – the No.8 crashing over on a hard, straightening lien after his side had tapped a penalty quickly from 10 metres out.

Michael van Vuuren added their third try from a pick-and-go down the left, but the Falcons had the last say of the half when Stephens scored a sublime individual try, taking the ball 30 metres out and putting in a massive right-foot side-step before sprinting between the posts.

Joel Hodgson’s conversion cut Wasps’ half-time lead to 24-17, and after a scrappy start to the second half the Falcons finally found their four-try bonus point on 52 minutes.

Flanker Josh Basham was the man to score it, the former England Under-20s cap dotting down in the right corner from a two-on-one following an earlier snipe from Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti.

Hodgson fired wide with the touchline conversion to leave Wasps ahead by two going into the final half-hour, but he was at the heart of the next score on the hour mark.

The fly-half showed great deception in putting Tait through a hole for the winger’s second score, Hodgson’s beautifully-weighted pass from 10 metres out followed up by a conversion as his side led by five going into the closing quarter.

Tommy Matthews’ second penalty reduced that advantage to just two with 11 minutes left to play – steals from Basham and Montgomery winning the ball back for the hosts as Wasps strived to find a late winner.

The visitors had one last push for victory but fired wide with a late drop-goal - Newcastle putting it out of reach with the very last play when Gary Graham broke from the back of a maul to dot down.

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Penny (captain), 14 Alex Tait, 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Max Wright, 11 Iwan Stephens, 10 Joel Hodgson (Will Haydon-Wood, 65), 9 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti; 1 Kyle Cooper, 2 Robbie Smith, 3 Mark Tampin (Logovi’i Mulipola, 61), 4 Matthew Dalton (Rob Farrar, 47), 5 Will Montgomery, 6 Josh Basham, 7 Connor Collett, 8 Gary Graham.

Scorers – Tries: Alex Tait 2, Will Montgomery, Iwan Stephens, Josh Basham, Gary Graham. Conversions: Joel Hodgson 2.

Wasps: 15 Cameron Anderson, 14 Luke Mehson, 13 Rekeiti Ma’asi White, 12 Olly Hartley, 11 Ollie Dawkins, 10 Tommy Mathews, 9 Sam Wolstenholme (captain, Ollie Monye, 72); 1 Gordon Reid (Zac Nearchou, 50), 2 Michael van Vuuren, 3 Biyi Alo (Pieter Scholtz, 51), 4 Tim Cardall, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 6 James Tyas, 7 Mario Pichardie, 8 James Tunney.

Scorers – Tries: Olly Hartley, James Tunney, Michael van Vuuren. Conversions: Tommy Matthews 3. Penalties: Tommy Matthews 2.

Referee: Alex Thomas. Attendance: 4,813.

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