RUGBY UNION: WASPS ended a hugely successful year by recovering from a disastrous start at Newcastle Falcons to come away with a 34-30 victory and finish 2016 top of the Aviva Premiership pile.
Despite conceding two tries inside the first four minutes, Wasps fought back at Kingston Park Stadium on December 30 to claim their seventh bonus point win of the season.
After falling 12-0 behind, Wasps registered their first points of the evening when Danny Cipriani crossed and converted before Christian Wade scored a second, which was converted by Cipriani to put the visitors two points in front.
The match swing back in Newcastle’s favour when Rob Vickers forced his way over for a converted try and a Joel Hodgson penalty made it 22-14.
But Wasps hit back two minutes before the break to cut the deficit to just one point as Thomas Young crashed over and Cipriani landed another conversion to bring to an end a pulsating opening 40 minutes.
Wasps went back in front six minutes into the second half when half-time replacement Jimmy Gopperth went over for the bonus point try and he got back up to slot home the conversion.
Hodgson and Gopperth then exchanged successful penalties before with 16 minutes remaining Elliot Daly took over kicking responsibilities and landed a superb long range penalty of his own to stretch Wasps’ lead to nine points.
There was to be late drama as Mark Wilson scored a touchdown in the final minute but the conversion attempt hit the left post and Dai Young’s side held on for a 34-30 win.
Young said: “It was a far from ideal start for us and you have to give Newcastle some credit. We had a couple of line-breaks early on too, and didn’t score, but they were really clinical in the early stages.
“But sometimes it’s better that something like that happens in the first couple of minutes rather than 20 minutes into the game, and I was pleased that the boys didn’t panic and they got us back into the game.
“I thought we showed character and commitment in abundance, but sometimes we lacked a bit of brain power. When we went six points up we were trying to offload, and gave away silly penalties when there was no need to.
“We’ve got to look at that, because I was really pleased how we got ourselves back in the game and got our noses in front, but then we tried to commit suicide, and gave Newcastle the momentum to come back at us.
“I thought we saw enough in the first ten or 15 minutes to give us confidence that if we kept playing we’d have a chance, but I certainly felt at half-time that the game would go to the wire.”