Newcastle Falcons showed no shortage of ferocity but were left empty-handed following Sunday’s Aviva Premiership visit of Wasps.
Despite enjoying by far the greater territory and possession during the first half the Falcons trailed 15-10 at the interval, scoring a deserved try with the last play of the opening period through former Wasp Taione Vea.
A game billed as ‘Goode Sunday’ in tribute to Andy Goode’s final day as a Falcon saw starting fly-half Mike Delany hogging the limelight, the Kiwi starter slotting a string of grubber kicks to the corner and finding runners on his outside.
His 15th minute penalty from the right-hand side broke the deadlock as Newcastle camped themselves in Wasps’ 22, the visitors keeping 15 men on the field despite conceding a string of penalties near their own line.
Vea was among the many willing runners as the Falcons made yards, fellow Tongan Nili Latu doing his share of the carrying for a side who lost Michael Young just seven minutes into his 100th appearance for the club.
But Wasps’ status as Aviva Premiership high flyers was evident from the ruthlessness with which they converted pressure into points, former Falcon Jimmy Gopperth drawing them level with a penalty from in front before George Smith’s try in the left corner nudged them ahead.
Scrum-half Dan Robson sniped in for their second try from the base of a ruck, the hosts fighting back from 15-3 down in a strong finish to the half.
Simon Hammersley thought he had found their first try when the full-back grounded from a piercing break from the 22, but the television match official had other ideas as the score was chalked off.
A period of incessant Newcastle pressure finally delivered a deserved try with the final play, Latu held up over the try line but Vea managing to ground the ball from a powerful short-range burst. Delany converted from the left-hand side to narrow the half-time margin to seven points, his side retaining their dominance during the early passages of the second half.
A series of close range pick-and-go plays saw Vea held up over the line, but it was Wasps who managed the first try of the half when a five-metre scrum and runs from Nathan Hughes and Ashley Johnson handed Robson a second try.
Gopperth’s conversion from in front thudded back off the woodwork, but the Newcastle old boy made amends quickly after when his break and pass freed Thomas Young for a converted score to secure the four-try bonus point.
The Falcons refused to lie down, persistent attack rewarded on 64 minutes when Chris Harris’ break and offload fed George McGuigan for a try to the left of the posts. Delany converted, Marcus Watson continuing the home side’s attack with a break and grubber down the right which Wasps managed to scramble clear.
Andy Goode’s much-anticipated introduction further swelled the Kingston Park atmosphere as the retiring fly-half came on for the final 10 minutes, chipping and chasing to no avail.
But when Young popped up with his second try two minutes from full-time, the losing bonus point was taken from their grasp despite a performance brimming with heart and physicality.
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: S Hammersley, A Tait (S Sinoti, 57), C Harris, A Powell (B Agulla, 57), M Watson, M Delany (A Goode, 71), M Young (S Takulua, 7); R Vickers (A Rogers, 64), G McGuigan, T Vea (M Cusack, 64), C Green, S Robinson (A Hogg, 60), M Wilson, W Welch (captain), N Latu.
Falcons scorers - Tries: T Vea, G McGuigan. Conversions: M Delany 2. Penalties: M Delany 2.
WASPS: R Miller, C Wade, E Daly, S Piutau, J Basssett, J Gopperth, D Robson (C Hampson, 61); M Mullan (captain, T Bristow, 61), A Johnson (C Festucia, 57), J Cooper-Woolley (P Swainston, 64), J Launchbury, K Myall (J Cannon, 57), T Young, G Smith, S Jones (N Hughes, 39).
Wasps scorers - Tries: G Smith, D Robson 2, T Young 2. Conversions: J Gopperth 3. Penalties: J Gopperth.
Referee: JP Doyle. Attendance: 6,725.
Hammersley, Tait, Harris, Powell, Watson, Delany, Young, Vickers, McGuigan, Vea, Green, Robinson, Wilson, Welch, Latu
Replacements Lawson, Rogers, Cusack, Hogg, Sinoti, Takulua, Goode, Agulla
Miller, Wade, Daly, Piutau, Bassett, Gopperth, Robson, Mullan, Johnson, Cooper-Woolley, Launchbury, Myall, Young, Smith, Jones
Replacements Festuccia, Bristow, Swainston, Cannon, Hughes, Hampson, Jackson, Macken
referee: JP Doyle
assistant: Roger Baileff
assistant: Roy Maybank
TMO: David Rose