Wasps 19 Falcons 20

Saturday 9 March 2019

Brett Connon made himself a Newcastle Falcons hero, slotting the decisive penalty with the last play of the game as his side won their first ever Gallagher Premiership game at the Ricoh Arena.

A performance built on character and grit was left until the final second of an unforgettable game, Connon coming on from the bench and holding his nerve from 30 metres out for a potentially crucial victory.

The Falcons were forced to show patience and discipline during the early stages with lengthy passages of red-zone defence, an eager Newcastle rearguard blitzing well and cutting down the thinking time of the home side.

Simon Hammersley, playing his 100th game for the club, was looking typically assured under a succession of high bombs, Wasps enjoying the greater of the early possession but failing to make it count due to the visitors’ counter-rucking and line-speed.

That changed on 17 minutes when ex-Newcastle fly-half Rob Miller sent over the first penalty of the afternoon from the left-hand side out on the 22, the Falcons’ task made all the more difficult by the injury-enforced departure of captain Will Welch.

Nonetheless, they drew level on 23 minutes via a simple penalty from Sonatane Takulua, the scrum-half sending one over from 10 metres out in front after a Zach Kibirige line-break and a period of close-range pick and go eventually yielded a shot at the sticks.

Newcastle’s line-out defence got them out of trouble on the half-hour when they conceded a penalty in their own half but stole the resulting set-piece, but Wasps managed a 6-3 half-time lead when a marginal high tackle on Marcus Watson allowed Miller the chance to slot a long-range penalty from the right.

The Falcons began the second half showing the same defensive aggression which had characterised their first 40, Nemani Nagusa jackalling to win a penalty on half-way but his side unable to capitalise on the resulting line-out, which was safely won but turned over in the subsequent phase play.

Johnny Williams was held up over the try line after a sustained period of close-range pick and go eventually saw the ball worked left, Brocklebank was held up over the line from the next play but the try finally arrived at the third scrum-five when Nagusa grounded the ball against the base of the post, Takulua converting from in front.

Miller cut Newcastle’s lead down to one point with a 45-metre penalty from just left of centre within a minute of the re-start, but Wasps were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes when Will Rowlands was shown yellow for a deliberate knock-on.

It did not affect the Falcons’ confidence, responding just past the hour mark with a try from 55 metres out as Nagusa’s midfield line break and the supporting run of Hammersley provided a platform for Takulua to score between the posts, the scrum-half converting his own try for an eight-point advantage.

Even when Wasps hit back with a Nizaam Carr line-break the ferocious jackal work of Sinoti Sinoti delivered a relieving penalty the way of the North Easterners, although there was no denying Miller his third penalty of the afternoon when he sent through a long-range strike on 65 minutes.

The home side regained the lead when former Falcon Ben Harris crossed in the right corner from a succession of offloads, Miller’s conversion putting Wasps two points up going into the closing 11 minutes.

Flood fell short with a long-range penalty attempt in the 77th minute, but Connon held his nerve with the clock in the red to seal a memorable away win.

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Johnny Williams, 12 Josh Matavesi (Pedro Bettencourt, 66), 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood (Brett Connon, 77), 9 Sonatane Takulua (Sam Stuart, 67); 1 Sam Lockwood (Adam Brocklebank, 47), 2 George McGuigan (Kyle Cooper, 67), 3 Logovi'i Mulipola (David Wilson, 71), 4 Calum Green (Evan Olmstead, 71), 5 Andrew Davidson, 6 Will Welch (captain, Nemani Nagusa, 16), 7 Gary Graham, 8 Callum Chick.

Falcons scorers – Tries: Nemani Nagusa, Sonatane Takulua. Conversions: Sonatane Takulua 2. Penalties: Sonatane Takulua, Brett Connon.

Wasps: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Gaby Lovobalavu (Ross Neal, 40), 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Rob Miller, 9 Joe Simpson (Craig Hampson, 65); 1 Ben Harris, 2 Tommy Taylor (Tom Cruse, 56), 3 Will Stuart, 4 Will Rowlands, 5 James Gaskell, 6 Ashley Johnson (captain), 7 Jack Willis (Ben Morris, 65), 8 Nizaam Carr.

Wasps scorers - Tries: Ben Harris. Conversions: Rob Miller. Penalties: Rob Miller 3.

Referee: Tom Foley.

Wasps 19

Tries
Harris 67

Conversions
Miller 68

Penalties
Miller 17,37,55,65

Newcastle Falcons 20

Tries
Nagusa 52
Takulua 59

Conversions
Takulua 53,60

Penalties
Takulua 22
Connon 83

Wasps

Le Roux, Watson, De Jongh, Lovobalavu, Bassett, Miller, Simpson, Harris, Taylor, Stuart, Rowlands, Gaskell, Johnson, Willis, Carr

Replacements Cruse, West, Alo, Matthews, Morris, Hampson, Umaga, Neal

Newcastle Falcons

Hammersley, Kibirige, Williams, Matavesi, Sinoti, Flood, Takulua, Lockwood, McGuigan, Mulipola, Green, Davidson, Welch, Graham, Chick

Replacements Cooper, Brocklebank, Wilson, Olmstead, Nagusa, Stuart, Connon, Bettencourt

referee: Tom Foley

assistant: Greg MacDonald

assistant: Phil Watters

TMO: Nigel Carrick

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