Newcastle Falcons secured their Aviva Premiership status going into the final weekend of the season after picking up two bonus points in an 11 try bonanza at Adams Park.
Worcester Warriors’ crushing 44-20 defeat at Saracens meant Newcastle’s result in High Wycombe paled into insignificance, but Dean Richards will be encouraged with what he witnessed from his side on a baking hot day in the capital.
The Falcons entertain Exeter Chiefs next Saturday safe in the knowledge that top-flight rugby will be gracing Kingston Park next term.
Newcastle began the contest in emphatic style, scoring two tries in a breathless first 10 minutes to send the travelling North East contingent in the stands into raptures. Blair touched down inside the first minute for arguably Falcons’ try of the season with explosive winger Sinoti Sinoti the catalyst for the score. The Samoan international, who was prominent throughout the game, broke free of a series of would-be tacklers, before feeding Alex Tait on the charge with Gonzalo Tiesi on his shoulder to offload to Blair for the Scot to scoot in under the posts. Hodgson converted for a 7-0 lead.
And four minutes later Hodgson increased the deficit to 10-0, stroking home a penalty from 25 metres out, before the fly-half bagged himself a try following another exhilarating backline move. The impressive Tait mounted the attack from his own 22, and after ghosting through Wasps’ rear-guard, the former Barnard Castle pupil hit the supporting Hodgson with a neat pass to put Newcastle in the ascendancy. Hodgson slotted home the extras to make it 17-0.
It was an incredible start for the Kingston Park club, but Wasps hit-back with a quick-fire double midway through the first half. First Nathan Hughes crashed over from the base of a ruck, and then Ashley Johnson crossed in similar fashion flowing a dominant rolling maul. Goode converted one of the two scores to close the gap to 17-12.
After Goode made it 17-15 with a penalty following James Fitzpatrick’s yellow card for persistent infringement at the breakdown, Johnson and Joe Simpson crossed before the interval to give Wasps the initiative at 29-17.
Newcastle started the second period the way they began the first with Noah Cato crossing for the first of his two tries to earn his side the try bonus point. Hodgson was the architect with a delicious floating pass for Cato to squeeze in at the corner. Hodgson’s sublime touchline conversion put Newcastle marginally behind at 29-24. And on 62 minutes the ex-Northampton Saints and Saracens man claimed his brace from close-range with Hodgson nailing the conversion to make it 31-29.
But again the resilience of Wasps came to the fore, and on 66 minutes Will Helu sensationally plucked Goode’s cross-field kick out of the air to slide over to put the Londoners 34-31 ahead. A Goode pen followed by a Charlie Hayter try brought up the 44 point mark for Wasps, but Newcastle’s never say die attitude rose to the surface once more with promising hooker George McGuigan motoring his way to the line with the last play of the match. Hodgson kept his nerve to smash home the conversion from out wide to end the game 44-38, meaning the Falcons left the London club with two points and their Aviva Premiership status intact.
Masi, Helu, Daly, Hayter, Varndell, Goode, Simpson, Mullan, Festuccia, Swainston, Launchbury, Palmer, Johnson, Haskell, Hughes
Replacements Lindsay, McIntyre, Vea, Cannon, Jones, Davies, Carlisle, Bell
Tait, Cato, Tiesi, Fitzpatrick, Sinoti, Hodgson, Blair, Vickers, Lawson, Brookes, MacLeod, Barrow, Mayhew, Welch, Wilson
Replacements McGuigan, Wilson, Tomaszczyk, Spencer, Saull, Fury, Clegg, Smith
referee: Dean Richards