London Wasps overcame a dreadful start to virtually guarantee a place in the European Champions Cup play-off after beating Newcastle 44-38.
Early on, they trailed 17-0 but recovered to blitz the Falcons with 29 unanswered points before the interval.
Remarkably Newcastle rallied to regain the lead at 31-29 before Wasps regrouped to gain a deserved victory.
The home side scored six tries with Nathan Hughes (2), Ashley Johnson, Will Helu, Charlie Hayter and Joe Simpson all crossing with Andy Goode kicking four conversions and two penalties.
Newcastle scored early tries through Mike Blair and Joel Hodgson, with Hodgson converting both and kicking a penalty as an upset looked on the cards.
They were then subjected to a four-try blitz from Wasps but recovered to score three second half tries from Noah Cato (2) and George McGuigan, all converted by Hodgson. However, despite their defeat they had the consolation of knowing that they retained their Aviva Premiership place as Worcester were hammered at Saracens.
Wasps made two changes from last week’s game against Bath. Chris Bell and Kearnan Myall, who were both injured during that match, failed to recover and were replaced by Charlie Hayter and Tom Palmer.
Newcastle were able to include Kieran Brookes at tight head after completing a suspension and there was a recall for Argentinean international centre, Gonzalo Tiesi.
Newcastle stunned the hosts with a try in the first minute. Sinoti Sinoti fielded a clearance kick inside his own half, beating two defenders, before Tiesi ran strongly and sent Blair in for the try, which Hodgson converted.
The visitors continued to dominate the opening exchanges to gain further reward from a Hodgson penalty before scoring another excellent try.
On half way, Alex Tait, burst past two opponents to run 40 metres and set up a try for Hodgson, which the outside half then converted for a 17-0 lead.
Wasps responded with their first period of pressure after Cato was penalised for not releasing. This gave the home side the platform to set up a number of driving line-outs which culminated in Hughes forcing his way over for Wasps’ first points.
Another try soon followed, scored in similar fashion. Once again the Falcons had no answer to Wasps’ driving maul and this time Johnson was the try scorer with Goode adding the conversion.
Wasps were now rampant with Carlo Festuccia bursting away from a maul inside his own half to set in motion a sweeping movement which ended with James Fitzpatrick being yellow carded and Goode kicking the resulting penalty.
The hosts took the lead when Hughes crashed over for Wasps’ third try after he and Johnson had done much of the spade work. A brilliant run from Elliot Daly gave Simpson the opportunity to run in the bonus point try and with two conversions from Goode, Wasps had a 29-17 half time lead.
Wasps lost the impressive Hughes at the interval after he picked up a leg injury.
This seemed to disrupt their momentum as Newcastle began the second half brightly. They should have reduced the arrears but Hodgson’s straight forward penalty attempt rebounded back off a post.
Fitzpatrick had returned from the bin and he and Sinoti were heavily involved in creating a try for Cato, who slipped past a weak tackle from Tom Varndell.
Newcastle continued their revival to regain the lead when Cato forced his way over for his second try, which Hodgson converted for a 31-29 advantage.
Within minutes, Wasps were back in front when Helu expertly collected a cross field kick from Goode, who missed the conversion but kicked a second penalty.
With four minutes to go Wasps, sealed their win with a try from Hayter, which was converted by Goode for a match tally of 14 points.
Hayter and James Haskell were both sin-binned in the last minute of the game, which allowed McGuigan to score the final try but Wasps saw out the victory.
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