A Matt Burke masterclass inspired Newcastle to a five-try GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP mauling of woeful Wasps at Kingston Park.
The Falcons captain looked every inch the World Cup winner as the relegation-threatened home side made the understrength visitors pay for almost every mistake they made.
Burke was also aided by an awesome defensive display from his team-mates, in a bonus-point victory that earned a sixth straight home win in all competitions.
Newcastle were without two of their England stars, while the play-off chasing visitors had lost eight players to international duty.
It certainly did not show when Wasps got off to what appeared a flying start.
They even went close to an early try until, with only his side’s third touch of the ball, former Australia international Burke intercepted a loose pass out wide before sprinting 70 metres to score in the corner.
Loki Crichton, playing at fly-half for the first time since New Year’s Day, missed the conversion.
Without a Premiership away win all season – barring their Twickenham curtain-raiser against Saracens – Wasps came roaring back and only a last-gasp tackle and turnover on the line prevented them levelling.
They quickly made partial amends by winning a penalty, which former Falcons favourite Dave Walder converted a from straightforward angle.
But their own indiscipline cost them again when Jamie Noon’s half-break was thwarted illegally, allowing Crichton to restore Newcastle’s five-point advantage.
Burke was beginning to assert his influence from full-back and was instrumental in the Falcons winning a close-range penalty, which Crichton again converted.
It got worse for Wasps when they conceded another crucial turnover, this time to Lee Dickson, who raced clear in similar fashion to his skipper before feeding Jamie Noon for the touchdown. Crichton missed the extra two points.
The frustration was getting to Wasps skipper Lawrence Dallaglio, whose flailing elbow saw a penalty decision reversed in Newcastle’s favour.
Fortunately for England’s World Cup-winning forward, Burke missed his long-range effort.
Walder was not so generous when presented with the chance to make it two from two, cutting the home side’s lead to 10 points before the break.
The second half saw another lightning start, this time for Newcastle.
Set up by Burke’s brilliant jinking run, the ball was eventually recycled for Matt Thompson to touch down – albeit after what looked a forward pass.
Crichton’s conversion made it 23-6 and, at this stage, only a collapse akin to last week’s controversial defeat at Bristol appeared able to thwart Newcastle’s victory march.
The lead could have been greater had Crichton not hit the post with a penalty.
Meanwhile, Dallaglio’s miserable night was brought to a premature conclusion when he was substituted midway through the half.
As the clock ticked down, Wasps probed for a score in the hope of snatching a losing bonus point.
Despite a plethora of handling errors, they eventually crossed the line, Mark McMillan scoring a carbon copy of Noon’s earlier try.
With Walder having been withdrawn, Mark Van Gisbergen missed the conversion.
With barely a minute remaining Newcastle secured the four-try bonus point when Mark Mayerhofler ran in unchallenged.
There was even time for a fifth score when Crichton unselfishly allowed prop Joe McDonnell to score his first try for the club.