London Wasps forced their way into the Aviva Premiership play-off places after they beat Newcastle 33-16 at Adams Park on Sunday.
Wasps forced their way into the Aviva Premiership play-off places after they overcame Newcastle 33-16 at Adams Park on Sunday.
Ben Jacobs and Serge Betsen scored the tries that put Wasps in control and the victory was sealed by 18 points from Dave Walder and a late penalty try.
Newcastle clung on until the final quarter of the match, with fly-half Jimmy Gopperth scoring all the Falcons points including a try just before the interval.
But Wasps were deserved winners and Andy Powell, the dynamic Welsh number eight, was the heartbeat of their performance.
It was a day of contrasting fortunes for the Welsh exiles, with Gavin Henson hauled off after 53 minutes of Saracens' shock defeat at Sale.
But Wales coach Warren Gatland will have been warmed by Powell's display less than a month before he names his Six Nations squad.
England will have been less convinced by Riki Flutey, who was making his first start since suffering a calf injury in October and limped off before the end
Flutey's return was one of six changes Wasps made following their Boxing Day defeat to Saracens at Wembley while Newcastle had to wait for Euan Murray's debut, with the Scotland prop unavailable to play on Sundays.
Shaun Edwards had described the game as a “revenge mission” for Wasps after their 29-17 defeat to the Falcons at Kingston Park in September.
Wasps certainly started as if they meant business and raced into 6-0 lead with two penalties from their former Newcastle fly-half Walder.
The second was awarded by referee Chris White after Wasps thought they had scored the opening try, when scrum-half Nic Berry chased down Richard Haughton's chip only for play to be brought back for an offside.
Wasps were driven on by the conspicuous Powell. His first powerful run paved the way for David Lemi to launch a carving breakaway. The second, onto a neat inside ball from hooker Tom Lindsay, almost brought a try.
Berry followed up and sold the Newcastle defence a huge dummy from the base of the ruck but was hauled down just short of the line.
Wasps twice spurned simple shots at goal as Newcastle were penalised inside their own 22 that would have given them a commanding 12-0 lead.
Instead, Newcastle hung in there with a penalty from Gopperth after lively approach work from the Falcons' England scrum-half prospect Micky Young.
Powell again punched a hole in the Newcastle defence, the ball was moved wide to Tom Varndell and Wasps won another penalty. This time Walder landed the shot at goal.
Wasps still did not have the return their dominance deserved but twice came close to scoring the opening try before Jacobs eventually breached the whitewash.
Haughton beat three defenders with dancing feet on half-way and Simon Shaw plundered forward after collecting the full-back's one-handed off-load.
Wasps built pressure on the Newcastle line but could not secure the quick ball they needed and Lemi was tackled into touch as he went for the corner.
Tighthead prop Zak Taulafo then tried to rumble over from short range after attacking the blindside but Young and Luke Fielden forced him into touch just before he grounded the ball.
Eventually, Wasps' pressure paid off. Walder took the ball to the line and popped a pass out for Jacobs, who carried five Newcastle defenders with him over the line.
Newcastle hit back again just before the interval. Flanker Redford Pennycook beat Tim Payne and Haughton with a jinking run before supplying Gopperth with the scoring pass.
Walder extended Wasps advantage but Gopperth landed two more penalties to keep the Falcons in touch heading into the final quarter.
But with 11 minutes remaining, Wasps finally shook off Newcastle's threat. And they did so in stunning fashion, with a 45-metre rolling maul.
Shaw and Powell were at the heart of the drive which was finished off by Betsen as the Wasps pack flexed their muscles.
Powell would have rounded off the day with a deserved try as he peeled off the back of a scrum to touch down next to the posts – but referee White had already awarded the penalty try.
Tries: Jacobs, Betsen, Penalty
Con: Walder 3
Pen: Walder 4
Pen: Gopperth 3
Wasps: 15 Richard Haughton, 14 Tom Varndell , 13 Ben Jacobs (capt), 12 Riki Flutey, 11 David Lemi, 10 Dave Walder, 9 Nic Berry, 8 Andy Powell, 7 Joe Worsley, 6 Will Matthews, 5 James Cannon, 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Zak Taulafo, 2 Tom Lindsay, 1 Tim Payne.
Replacements: 16 Jason Hobson, 17 Charlie Beech, 18 Ben Broster, 19 Marty Veale, 20 Serge Betsen, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Steve Kefu, 23 Mark Van Gisbergen.
Newcastle: 15 Jeremy Manning, 14 Luke Fielden, 13 Tane Tu'ipulotu, 12 Luke Eves, 11 Gcobani Bobo, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Micky Young, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Redford Pennycook, 6 Will Welch, 5 Tim Swinson, 4 James Hudson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Grant Shiells.
Replacements: 16 Matt Hall, 17 Micky Ward, 18 Tim Ryan, 19 Filipo Levi, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Jason Spice, 22 James Fitzpatrick, 23 Danny Williams.
Referee: Chris White