Newcastle Falcons began their Anglo-Welsh Cup campaign with the full five points from a breathless encounter at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday.
A see-saw scoring pattern saw tries raining down, Newcastle’s much-changed line-up seeing a host of fresh faces taking their chance in a fine display of attacking rugby.
Newcastle began the game on the front and had a three point lead after as many minutes when Craig Willis chipped over a close-range penalty, Wasps conceding twice inside their own half as the visitors pressed through their forward carriers.
The home side hit back with a try through Jack Willis when a penalty was kicked to the right corner, Newcastle withstanding the initial drive but finding themselves unable to prevent the blind-side scoring between the posts from the resulting passage of play.
Ex-Falcon Rob Miller added the conversion, and his side found a second try before the 10-minute mark when wing Aaron O’Sullivan marked his debut with a try in the right corner.
Miller’s touchline conversion attempt bounced back off the left upright, but he was back on target on 19 minutes when Owain James dived in for try number three, the full-back scoring in the right corner after James Haskell’s centre-field run was worked to the width.
The Falcons responded on 22 minutes when a lineout on half-way down the left wing produced a try in the right corner, Adam Radwan the man to score it with a darting finish after off-the-top ball saw Charlie Wilson and Cameron Cowell giving the winger a sight of the line from long range.
Willis’s conversion attempt was charged down as the visitors remained in single digits, but that all changed on 28 minutes when they kicked a penalty to the left corner for Santiago Socino to score. The Argentinean hooker peeled away from the back of a well-constructed maul to dive over, Willis slotting the extras from wide out.
Newcastle’s fightback did not stop there, the North Easterners taking the lead once again on 32 minutes when a flowing 80-metre move ended in debutant Simon Uzokwe scoring down the right, the flanker showing a fine side-step after earlier breaks from Willis, Socino and Mermoz got them within striking distance.
Willis’s conversion put the Falcons three points ahead, Miller drawing the sides level at the break with a close-range penalty for a 22-22 interval scoreline.
The Falcons began the second half with similar levels of attacking ambition as they had shown in the first, running the ball out of their own 22 and enjoying a degree of success as Radwan’s pace and quick feet saw him make a 50-metre dash down the centre.
But it was Wasps who found the first points of the half when a break down the right and a quick transfer through the hands allowed Guy Armitage to ground the bonus-point try in the left corner.
Newcastle responded with a bonus point of their own as Gary Graham ploughed over from the base of a maul in the left corner to level things up, but the frenetic pace continued when Owain James grabbed his second try from in front to put Wasps seven ahead with half an hour remaining.
Two tries in as many minutes turned the tide once more as Newcastle scored 12 quickfire points, Adam Radwan’s 60-metre solo stunner followed by a 70-metre move which saw Joel Hodgson ghosting through a gap to score after Michael Young’s quickly-tapped penalty.
It got even better on 67 minutes when Andrew Davidson pumped his legs for a converted try, Wasps quickly cancelling it out through Armitage’s second try from broken play down the left.
Uzokwe’s second looked to have sealed it on 74 minuets when Hodgson’s grubber and Ryan Burrows’ turnover set up a close-range ruck from which the flanker burrowed through, his side holding firm until the final whistle.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Cameron Cowell, 14 Adam Radwan (Zach Kibirige, 74), 13 Charlie Wilson, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Belisario Agulla, 10 Craig Willis (Joel Hodgson, 58), 9 Michael Young (Ruaridh Dawson, 64); 1 Sami Mavinga (Trevor Davison, 53), 2 Santiago Socino (Ben Sowrey, 53), 3 Scott Wilson (David Wilson, 52, Scott Wilson, 71), 4 Will Witty, 5 Andrew Davidson (Glen Young, 67), 6 Ryan Burrows (captain), 7 Gary Graham, 8 Callum Chick (Simon Uzokwe, 15).
Falcons scorers - Tries: Adam Radwan 2, Santiago Socino, Simon Uzokwe 2, Gary Graham, Joel Hodgson, Andrew Davidson. Conversions: Craig Willis 3, Joel Hodgson 2. Penalties: Craig Willis.
Wasps: 15 Owain James, 14 Aaron O’Sullivan, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Juan de Jongh (Jacob Umaga, 67), 11 Guy Armitage, 10 Rob Miller, 9 Craig Hampson (Will Porter, 58, Connor Eastgate, 71); 1 Ben Harris (Paul Doran-Jones, 40), 2 Gabriel Oghre (TJ Harris, 52), 3 Marty Moore (Will Stuart, 40), 4 Marcus Garratt (Guy Borrowdale, 63), 5 James Gaskell (captain), 6 Jack Willis, 7 James Haskell (James Seabrook, 51), 8 Tom Willis.
Wasps scorers - Tries: Jack Willis, Aaron O’Sullivan, Owain James 2, Guy Armitage 2. Conversions: Rob Miller 4. Penalties: Rob Miller.
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales). Attendance: 7,517.