London Wasps came back from a 17-0 deficit to claim victory in a topsy-turvy, eleven try thriller with Newcastle Falcons at Adams Park.
The visitors twice led and battled to the end to secure the two bonus points that secured an 11th place finish in this season’s Aviva Premiership.
But they had no answer to the Wasps power game, the home side running in six tries on their way to a victory that went a long way to securing a European play-off spot.
Newcastle made the perfect start as Sinoti Sinoti claimed the ball from the kick-off, ran infield beating two tacklers and recycling the ball.
James Fitzpatrick took it up and offloaded to Gonzalo Tiesi who sent Mike Blair clear to score to the right of the posts with the Wasps defence in disarray. Joel Hodgson added the extras to make it 7-0 to the visitors inside the opening minute.
And the fly-half extended the Newcastle lead on eight minutes when he popped over a confident penalty from the right of the posts, rewarding the visitors for their positive start.
The home side looked stunned and failed to recover before the Falcons scored a second try of the season contender.
An Andrea Masi kick failed to go where the Italian international intended, bouncing infield where Dom Barrow pounced before offloading to the onrushing Alex Tait.
Tait burst upfield before setting up Hodgson to dive over the line, converting his own score to give the Falcons a 17-0 advantage.
Andy Goode turned down a couple of long-range penalties as Wasps looked to build pressure at the lineout but desperate defence from Newcastle kept out the home side’s early forays.
But with the powerful Ashley Johnson to the fore, Wasps ground their way forward and Newcastle were unable to withstand the pressure with Nathan Hughes bundled over the line from the base of the ruck.
Goode missed a relatively simple conversion from just outside the Newcastle 22 and it was 17-5 to the visitors with a quarter of the game gone.
Newcastle failed to learn the lesson of the first try and another series of penalties saw Goode kicking to the corner from where Wasps launched a wave of attacks.
This time it was Johnson who burrowed his way over the line, Goode this time adding the conversion to reduce the gap between the sides to five points.
With half an hour gone Newcastle were hanging on as Carlo Festuccia sent Joe Simpson away, with Fitzpatrick sent for a ten-minute spell on the sidelines for persistent infringement at the ruck.
Goode made short work of the resulting penalty and Wasps could have taken the lead when Tom Varndell chipped over the defence, running on to his own kick only to knock the ball on with the try line looming.
However, a minute or two later they did go ahead for the first time as Newcastle defended on their own line and it was Hughes who picked up the loose ball to touch down for his second score of the afternoon. Goode slotted the conversion and Wasps led 22-17 with four minutes left to the interval.
Newcastle weren’t able to hold out to the break as Wasps broke out of their own 22 down the left flank with Elliot Daly chipping over Sinoti and collecting the ball before playing in Simpson to score.
Goode bisected the posts with the conversion to send Wasps in at half-time 29-17 ahead and with the four-try bonus point in the bag.
The second half couldn’t match the first for its blisteringly quick finish as Wasps lost Hughes to injury.
Hodgson sent an early penalty crashing against the post as Falcons wasted a chance to get the first points of the half on the board.
Without Hughes Wasps looked half the side and 12 minutes into the second period Falcons took advantage of unexpected uncertainty in the home defence with Noah Cato crashing over in the corner after quick hands from the backs.
The impressive Hodgson added the extras from the touchline to bring Newcastle within five points of the lead.
And a well-worked try brought Newcastle level, Sinoti getting the Falcons on the front foot with Cato hitting the line at pace to barrel over the line on the hour mark.
A fantastic Hodgson kick inched over the bar to put the Falcons back into the lead, and secure a try bonus point for the visitors.
Immediately Wasps hit back, Goode putting a lovely cross-field kick in behind the Falcons defence for Will Helu to run onto, picking up the ball from around his ankles to score. Goode was wayward with the conversion and with 13 minutes to go Wasps led 34-31.
As Newcastle tired the penalties started to flow for Wasps once more and Goode knocked over another to increase the home side’s lead to six points heading into the final ten minutes.
And gaps in the middle of the Newcastle defence were exposed when Charlie Hayter spotted a gap and dashed through it, the centre stepping up to add the conversion.
But with Hayter and James Haskell in the sin bin George McGuigan grabbed Newcastle’s fifth try, Hodgson’s conversion securing a second bonus point for the visitors.