Wasps sack 'Castle to confirm top six ambitions

WASPS strengthened their top six credentials with a 17-12 victory over Newcastle that was nearly as welcome as a hot drink on an Arctic North East night.

A biting wind whipped around Kingston Park all evening, numbing the hands and robbing the match of most of its swash and buckle.

But it was the visitors who knuckled down better, controlling the field for long spells and taking the points thanks to tries from Sam Jones and Ashley Johnson.

Last week's Adams Park anguish against Northampton might well have derailed the black and golds as they strive for Europe, but they are back on track thanks to this polar express.

After the Christmas tempests, Wasps kicked off in something of a lull – or least as much a lull as Newcastle can offer in late December.

The swirling winds still made life awkward for the players though and Wasps found that out to their costs when they lost the first line-out, handing the hosts the early momentum.

But important tackles from Charlie Hayter, Chris Bell and the superb Jones meant Wasps survived a difficult spell untroubled before they began to exert their own authority on proceedings.

Joe Launchbury was, as ever, instrumental and two charge downs from the giant lock led to the opening try of the match after 13 minutes.

First he had Newcastle scurrying back into their own 22 after blocking Alex Tait's kick and then, when Newcastle were penned in on their try line, he did it again to send Jones over under the posts.

Andy Goode duly converted to make it 7-0 and that lead could have been doubled by the quarter mark, with Goode sending a penalty wide and then Launchbury just failing to beat the Newcastle defence to touch down his own hack forward after Elliot Daly and Tom Varndell had attacked with verve down the left.

Goode did increase the lead to 10-0 with four minutes of the half left, landing a penalty that curved almost 90 degrees after bisecting the uprights, and against a team with just three Premiership tries all season that looked like a healthy interval lead.

Wasps weren't finished though, and 14 minutes after the restart they stretched their lead with try number two.

Johnson scored it from a driving line-out, but the score was all about Daly as he made more than 60m for his team with a majestic kick that hugged the left touchline.

He and Varndell chased with purpose, forcing Newcastle's Ally Hogg to hack out, and that was all the invitation the black and golds needed.

Goode converted for 17-0, and although Noah Cato broke Newcastle's long try duck with an hour gone, the match was all but over by then. Wasps might have crossed again when Will Helu, Varndell and Daly nearly combined down the left wing and Newcastle did go over in the final play through Hogg, but it was just dressing – Dai Young's men had already devoured the meat of the match.

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