Newcastle climbed to sixth in the Guinness Premiership after fly-half Jimmy Gopperth booted them to their first victory at Adams Park.
Gopperth kicked four penalties from seven attempts to conclude the Falcons’ three-match losing streak and register their first win in nine visits to High Wycombe, in a poor game that frustrated the fans. Endless kicking, much of it aimless, combined with high error and penalty counts, tested the patience of supporters in freezing conditions.
England and Lions lock Simon Shaw rose above the mediocrity to become the dominant forward on the pitch, closely followed by Newcastle skipper Carl Hayman. But there were precious few highlights in a drab encounter settled by penalties, with Shaw foiled by Hayman in the only try-scoring chance.
Wasps, who dispatched Harlequins in front of a 76,000 crowd at Twickenham last Sunday, used three kickers in Dave Walder, Danny Cipriani and Mark van Gisbergen.
The tone for the afternoon was set in the opening exchanges which saw Walder and Gopperth swap penalties. Spotting space on the left, Cipriani attempted to launch a counter that was undermined by his poor, looping pass.
Wasps’ scrum was enduring a torrid time, back-pedalling furiously at every set-piece, and Newcastle were also in the ascendancy at the lineout. Despite all their problems, Wasps would have been ahead but for two missed penalties from the usually reliable Walder, the Guinness Premiership’s most prolific kicker this season.
Gopperth squandered three points from in front of the posts and just as the match seemed destined to reach the half-hour mark without a single highlight, Wasps burst into life. Winger David Lemi combined with Cipriani to make the initial break, leading to Shaw and Mark Robinson driving the team forward with a mixture of brute strength and slick footwork.
Shaw finished the move by barging over but Hayman managed to get a hand beneath the ball and TMO Roy Marfleet refused to award the score. Gopperth struck the crossbar with a long-range penalty but was more successful with a marginally less difficult attempt moments later before missing a third on the stroke of half-time.
Newcastle ended a first half lacking in thrills 6-3 ahead and after the interval Wasps continued to be punished by referee Tim Wigglesworth. Once more they crumbled at the scrum and Gopperth made them pay with three points, but centre Steve Kefu made a telling break to dent Newcastle’s momentum.
Walder was replaced by Van Gisbergen with Cipriani switching from full-back to fly-half and the England international took over the kicking responsibilities. He pulled his first attempt, which should have been routine, and Wasps turned to Van Gisbergen for the next chance which the substitute slotted over.
Gopperth restored Newcastle’s six-point advantage with his fourth penalty. Wasps launched a late flurry, including a dangerous attack with the last play of the game, but it was too little, too late.