Nili Latu crosses for the only try in Saturday's match against Wasps (image courtesy of Paler Images)

Wasps 9 - 8 Newcastle Falcons

Saturday 6 February 2016

Hard fought bonus point taken from trip to Wasps

Jimmy Gopperth's late penalty denied brave Newcastle Falcons a victory at the Ricoh Arena, Dean Richards' battlers having to make to with a well-deserved bonus point against in-form Wasps.

A performance of muscle, patience and resolve saw Newcastle scoring the only try of the game when Tonga captain Nili Latu was driven over from a second-half line-out.

Controlling much of the territory and possession, and leading by two points for much of the second half, it was a painful blow when former Newcastle favourite Gopperth drilled over a low penalty from long range to seal a home win.

A wet and windy afternoon in the Midlands dictated a tight and scrappy contest, both teams turning the territorial screw with a series of up-and-unders.

Andy Goode's first game against his former club saw the fly-half going the aerial route more often than not, as did Gopperth.

He and fellow former Falcon Rob Miller put plenty of boot to ball in a half low on out-and-out chances, Alex Tait coming inflield for a number of carries while Juan Pablo Socino ran some hard midfield lines.

Giamba Venditti and full-back Simon Hammersley ensured a tight defensive ship as they repelled Wasps' kicking game, Latu and Will Welch making nuisances of themselves at the breakdown.

Michael Young's well-judged box-kicking contributed in no small part to the growing frustration among the home crowd, but it was Wasps who took the lead when Gopperth dinked over a simple penalty from in front on 22 minutes.

Goode responded at the third time of asking to level the scores, goal-kicking made difficult for the Coventry native by the swirling wind.

With try-scoring opportunities hard to come by there was no further score before the interval, Newcastle emerging early for the second half in a concerted bid to overcome the slow starts which had hit them in recent weeks.

It appeared to do the trick, although it took the intervention of the video referee to deny Wasps a try when Christian Wade thought he had scored from Dan Robson's hack ahead.

On closer inspection the flying winger was shown to be fractionally in front of the kicker, Newcastle responding strongly.

Kicking a penalty to the corner and profiting from the line-out, a rock-solid maul crept its way infield, setting the platform for Latu to score down the left-hand side.

Goode's conversion bounced back off the post, the Falcons having to battle on a man down when Giamba Venditti was sent to the sin bin.

Gopperth chipped over a close-range three-pointer from the resulting penalty, Wasps turning to their bench as George Smith and Ashley Johnson offered international-quality replacements.

The home side had a second try denied when James Cannon was pulled back for a forward pass earlier in the sequence, the Falcons displaying an abundance of defensive resolve as they turned over a maul inside their own 22 to deny a try-scoring opportunity.

It looked like it might be their day when Gopperth's attempted match-winning penalty fell short from the right-hand side, but the Kiwi found extra distance with his second attempt as his side edged ahead by one.

Only five minutes remained for the visitors to find a winner, Goode dropping into the pocket when a series of pick-and-goes got them to within 30 metres.

But the search for extra distance saw the ball spilled in contact, referee Craig Maxwell-Keys blowing the final whistle to disappoint a Newcastle side who had shown so much guts and organisation in appalling conditions.

Wasps 9

Penalties
Gopperth 23,53,75

Newcastle Falcons 8

Tries
Latu 48

Penalties
Goode 26

Wasps

Miller, Wade, Macken, Downey, Bassett, Gopperth, Robson, McIntyre, Shervington, Cooper-Woolley, Gaskell, Myall, Rieder, Young, Hughes

Replacements Johnson, Mullan, Swainston, Cannon, Smith, Stevenson, Jackson, Piutau

Newcastle Falcons

Hammersley, Tait, Powell, Socino, Venditti, Goode, Young, Vickers, Lawson, Vea, Wilson, Robinson, Welch, Latu, Hogg

Replacements McGuigan, Rogers, Ryan, Botha, Mayhew, Takulua, Willis, Watson

referee: Craig Maxwell-keys

assistant: Gareth Copsey

assistant: Andy Watson

TMO: Keith Lewis

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