Newcastle Falcons salvaged a losing bonus point against London Wasps at a windswept Kingston Park thanks to a Will Welch touchdown with the last play of the contest.
Drive after drive, the Falcons were inching closer to the line before the Newcastle-born skipper took the initiative to crash over with the help of Ally Hogg, who pushed him across the line.
The Londoners ran out 17-12 victors in the end, but the Falcons faithful can be justly proud of their team for the spirit and endeavour shown in the last ten minutes.
Newcastle came out of the blocks composed and measured as they controlled the opening exchanges with ball in hand. Demonstrating patient build-up play with the heavies charging through the middle, Wasps to their credit stood firm to deny any score from the hosts.
After a period of sustained pressure on Wasps’ line, the Falcons fell behind on 15 minutes when Joe Launchbury slid over after Chris Pilgrim’s attempted box-kick on his own line was charged down. Referee Wayne Barnes awarded the try via the television match official. Andy Goode slotted home the conversion to give his side the early advantage at 7-0.
In a nip and tuck first half in which neither side penetrated one another’s line, Wasps back-row Ashley Johnson caused havoc for the Falcons with his bulldozing hit-ups. Leading the line upfront, Johnson earned his side a penalty at a maul five minutes from the break, and Goode was successful bang in front for a 10-0 lead.
Godman had the chance to reduce the deficit to within seven points when he was gifted a penalty 25 metres out, but his effort skewed wide of the upright and Dai Young’s outfit saw out the remainder of the half with their 10-point advantage intact.
Playing towards the South Stand in the second half, there was an electric atmosphere brewing inside Kingston Park for what was arguably the Falcons’ biggest 40 minutes of the campaign.
However, Newcastle could not have asked for a worse start as the impressive Johnson finished off a rolling maul to touch down for the visitors. A smart set-up at the lineout provided Johnson with the platform to add the final touches to an effective maul. Goode made no mistake with the two points and the Tynesiders clearly had a mountain to climb.
But in typical North East fashion, grit, determination and spirit rose to the surface as the Falcons rallied to produce a pulsating finale.
On the hour mark Noah Cato crossed in the corner following a sublime break and offload from full-back Alex Tait. Roared on by a 6,000 plus crowd, winger Cato darted onto Tait’s neat inside pass to get the Falcons well and truly back into the game. Godman’s touchline conversion veered wide and Wasps led 17-5.
Trailing 17-5 with ten minutes left on the clock, Newcastle were throwing everything they had at Wasps’ rear-guard. The men from Adams Park showed defiance in defence as Newcastle went in search of a precious losing bonus point. With the match going into time added on, and with James Haskell sent to the sin bin for killing a ruck, the Falcons had one last throw of the dice.
Replacement scrum-half Mike Blair took a quick-tap penalty following Haskell’s yellow card to set up one final surge towards the line. The experienced Scot hit the ball to the pack, and edging closer to the line, Welch’s pick and drive earned his side a point.
Tait, Cato, Helleur, Fitzpatrick, Shortland, Godman, Pilgrim, Vickers, Lawson, Brookes, Del Fava, McKenzie, Wilson, Welch, Hogg
Replacements McGuigan, Montanella, Tomaszczyk, Tomes, York, Blair, Clegg, Barnes
Daly, Helu, Bell, Hayter, Varndell, Goode, Davies, Mullan, Festuccia, Cooper-Woolley, Launchbury, Palmer, Johnson, Haskell, Jones
Replacements Lindsay, Vea, Swainston, Cannon, Jackson, Simpson, Carlisle, Suniula
referee: Wayne Barnes
assistant: Andy Watson
assistant: Robin Goodliffe
TMO: Trevor Fisher