By Paul Morgan, editor of Rugby World Magazine
Wasps 6 Newcastle 12
It’s not often a loosehead prop is made man of the match but in Jon Golding Newcastle have discovered a destructive prop and the main reason they beat Wasps to go sixth in the Premiership was their set piece as they pretty-much destroyed Wasps at scrum and lineout in the first half.
Things were slightly different in the second half as Wasps introduced Samoan tighthead, Sakaria Taulafo, into the fray.
Everyone at Wasps will be frustrated and angry by another defeat, but it does go to show exactly how competitive the Guinness Premiership is this season. Any side can beat any side.
When Wasps saw Leeds at home and Newcastle at home as two up and coming fixtures they would have thought eight points minimum, with a possible tilt at 10. But to only get two can only be considered a failure.
Steve Bates though, the Newcastle coach is something of a miracle worker. At the end of the season he lost Jonny Wilkinson, Jamie Noon, and then before that Toby Flood and a host of other players. But he introduced almost 20 new players to a squad. That recipe has no right to work, but it does. He drives the siege mentality into a team and has everyone working so hard for each other. The interesting thing is that they are now sixth, and must look upwards. Will it be so easy for the Falcons when they become favourites in some games. But with the number of new players he had to bring in Bates is already an early contender for coach of the season!
Other things of note:
Sakaria Taulafo: Wasps looked to have plucked another overseas diamond. Of course it is early days as Zak has only played 40 minutes of rugby, but he shored up the scrum and was a threat in the loose. Promising start – lots of hard work to be done.
Danny Cipriani: The most threatening player on the pitch and I think Lawrence Dallaglio is right – Cipriani can play international rugby at full-back. He is very, very unlikely to make it into the England squad for the Six Nations with Wilkinson settled at 10 and Armitage back for the 15 shirt, but it will be a crying shame if this lad cannot show his undeniable ability on the international stage.
James Hudson: Another player London Irish let slip through their grasp he must have a shot at the England A team this season, at least. The England management need to make more trips to watch Newcastle.
Jon Golding: Ok, he has the best prop in the world alongside him (Carl Hayman) but Golding was pushing for an England squad place in November and it is easy to see why. Another who came from National One (Championship) and a reminder to all Premiership coaches that there is gold in them there Championship hills. Look closer to home, first!
Alan Tait: All hail Newcastle’s defence coach. A mixture of the blitz and the drift snuffed out almost every one of Wasps attacks. Very impressive.
Simon Shaw: How does he do it, at 36? He had a huge influence on this game and should be the first name on the teamsheet for England in the Six Nations. Looked to have scored a pretty good try as well, despite the view of the TMO.
The breakdown: Tony Hanks was yet another coach to ‘have a go’ at the way the breakdown is refereed, following the soon to be fined (or banned) Brendan Venter on Saturday. The problem though seems to be with the laws not the referees. The tackler is the problem, as all coaches know. The IRB have a lot to answer for.
Were you at the game? Are you a fan of either club? What is the secret of Newcastle’s success?