Wasps on brink of European play-off

Wasps thrilled their fans in end to end victory.

Wasps thrilled their fans in end to end victory.

First published in Sport by

WASPS can start thinking about a two-legged European play-off after coming from 17-0 down to blitz Newcastle 44-38 at Adams Park today.

They ran in six tries in a thrill-a-minute game that almost certainly nails down seventh spot in the Aviva Premiership and a home and away European showdown against Stade Francais.

How times have changed.

Two years ago almost to the day they hosted Newcastle knowing the game could easily be the club's last ever. A heavy defeat would have relegated them and many within the club feared such a fall from grace would be terminal.

Wasps survived that near-death experience though, and they have hardly taken a backwards step since.

Such has been their revival that today's match against the Falcons was all about earning a seat at Europe' top table next season, and they have nearly done it.

They made it hard for themselves though.

For 20 minutes they were absolutely dreadful and Newcastle soared into a 17-0 lead thanks to converted tries from half backs Mike Blair and Joel Hodgson plus a Hodgson penalty.

Feeble Wasps tackling was at least partly culpable in the unexpected start, but once the home side roused themselves they were spectacular with four tries before the break turning the game right around.

Back row powerhouses Nathan Hughes and Ashley Johnson got the first couple from driving line outs after 20 and 27 minutes, and the relentless pressure told again just after the half hour when Johnson went over again.

Newcastle centre James Fitzpatrick was yellow carded in the build up to that score, and Wasps made the extra man count with on the stroke of half time when Joe Simpson went under the posts for the try bonus after Will Helu's burst.

That made it 29-17 and with all five points already in the bag all they had to do in the second half was tie it up.

But again Wasps were painfully slow out of the blocks, and Newcastle had already wasted two good chances for points by the time Noah Cato ducked under Tom Varndell's tackle to score after 53 minutes.

Cato went over again with 20 minutes left, and when Hodgson converted from the touchline the black and golds had it all to do again, trailing 31-29.

They didn't take long to respond though.

Within minutes Helu had expertly gathered Goode's cross chip for try number five, and although the fly half missed the conversion Wasps wouldn't be caught again.

A Goode penalty moved them into a 37-31 lead with just over ten minutes left and the game was done when Charlie Hayter zipped over near the finish, despite a last-gasp consolation try from the visitors.

A point against Northampton next week will wrap up seventh and a European play-off, although they won't even need that if Exeter fail to get five points against Harlequins tomorrow.

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