An 80-metre try from Paul Sackey helped Wasps win their game in hand to climb into third place in the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP and keep alive their hopes of a home semi-final in the play-offs.
Even without the rested trio of Lawrence Dallaglio, Raphael Ibanez and Tom Voyce, Wasps had too much pace and guile for a valiant but experienced Newcastle, who made nine changes to the side that beat Leicester to give Steve Bates his first win as acting director of rugby.
Wasps, whose eight-match winning run came to grief at leaders Gloucester on Sunday, were always in control of a scrappy encounter but it took them until the 76th minute to secure their try bonus point.
England fly-half Danny Cipriani, nominated earlier in the day for the PRA players’ player of the year award, kicked five goals from six attempts to help clinch a third win of the season over the Falcons, but their first at Kingston Park for four years.
A fifth successive away win took Ian McGeechan’s men above Sale and Harlequins in the table and a sixth at the expense of relegated Leeds in Saturday’s final programme could secure a second-placed finish.
While Jonny Wilkinson was an anticipated absentee, the 10,200 capacity crowd were denied one last chance to see Matthew Tait, Toby Flood and Ben Woods, who are all leaving Kingston Park after Saturday’s final game at Worcester.
Tait was a late withdrawal with a hip injury, paving the way for younger brother Alex to make his ninth appearance but that was short-lived when he went off after only 12 minutes with a cut head.
Tom May gave the Falcons an early lead with a penalty but Wasps were always the more adventurous on attack and full-back Ricki Flutey atoned for his frailty under the high ball with a series of incisive breaks from deep.
England wing Sackey was also a threat and Cipriani caused all sorts of problems with his sleight of hand, yet both Wasps’ first-half tries were dour efforts with flankers James Haskell and Tom Rees being driven over from close range.
In contrast, Newcastle’s first-half tries were sparkling long-range efforts, albeit against the run of play.
Rob Miller, an 18-year-old fly-half introduced for only his third appearance because of injury to Tait, jinked through the heart of the Wasps defence and his long pass gave centre May a clear run to the line.
Right winger Ollie Phillips scored the Falcons’ other try, collecting Steve Jones’ perfectly-judged kick after number eight Russell Winter had seized on a couple of handling errors by the visitors.
While May and Miller missed both conversions between them, Cipriani kicked a penalty and a conversion to nudge his side 15-13 ahead at the break and he was involved in the best try of the match three minutes into the second half.
Wasps turned over possession deep inside their own half and swept the ball along the line until Cipriani went through a gap and allowed Sackey to finish off a brilliant 80-metre move.
Cipriani’s touchline conversion opened up a 22-13 lead and he extended that to 12 points with a 59th-minute penalty.
Wasps maintained their domination but did not grab the all-important fourth try until five minutes from the end when winger Josh Lewsey sliced through a tired Newcastle defence and Cipriani kicked his fifth goal.