Danny Cipriani kept his Lions tour hopes alive with an impressive display of kicking which produced 12 points as Wasps ground out a workmanlike GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP victory over Newcastle.
The high-profile 21-year-old fly-half, overlooked by England manager Martin Johnson for the RBS 6 Nations, landed three penalties and a sublime drop goal. He was also instrumental in taking the sting out of a Newcastle side who had won seven of their previous eight GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP matches.
The Falcons staged a revival in the second half which produced two penalties for fly-half Tom May but Wasps, playing their third match in eight days, hung on for victory as Newcastle piled forward in the closing minutes. Cipriani’s pinpoint tactical kicking into space behind the Newcastle defensive line constantly pegged the visitors back and the pressure told as they conceded a string of first-half penalties.
With Cipriani taking advantage, Wasps thwarted recently-revitalised Newcastle’s hopes of their first win in eight visits to Adams Park. Newcastle’s solid defence deserved credit for limiting Wasps to only 12 points as they kept their try-line intact in the first half.
Cipriani kicked Wasps ahead when Newcastle were caught offside in front of their own posts in the eighth minute and added a second 14 minutes later. The fly-half pulled a third penalty attempt wide in the 27th minute but took less than a minute to make amends, nonchalantly responding with his audacious drop goal from just inside his own half.
Newcastle were twice fortunate not to concede tries, first when Wasps skipper Tom Rees gratefully grabbed possession after Rob Vickers threw too long at a lineout and then when the ball rebounded to livewire scrum-half Mickey Young after his attempted clearance kick was charged down.
Wasps failed to capitalise on their dominance, spilling the ball as their forwards drove towards the line. However, the Falcons conceded another penalty when number eight Adam Balding hung on to the ball as he was tackled trying to run it out of defence and Cipriani sent Wasps in with a 12-0 interval lead.
They made sure of extending their current run of home victories to nine matches in all competitions on the day long-serving former England utility back Josh Lewsey announced his retirement from top-class rugby at the end of the season.
Lewsey, who began in the centre but switched to the wing after Gloucester-bound Tom Voyce was injured in the first half, will certainly be missed on the strength of this performance. He was always prepared to run the ball and contributed to the kicking game which kept the visitors on the back foot for long spells.
Cipriani continued to torment Newcastle in the second half and the visitors were lucky to escape when one high, teasing kick just eluded chasing winger Lachlan Mitchell.
Newcastle, making much more of an impression after the interval, finally opened their account when May, who had missed a first-half penalty, landed one in the 59th minute. May struck again seven minutes later to cut the deficit to six points and Wasps were suddenly hanging on to their slender lead.
Wasps replacement prop Charlie Beech was fortunate to escape a late yellow card after blatantly body-checking Tom Visser as the Newcastle winger chased his own kick down the touchline. The resulting penalty into touch set up a final surge by the visitors but, with an overlap outside him on the left, May knocked on and the chance of a late upset had been squandered.