Flawed Falcons fall short
A 14-10 win over relegation rivals Wasps at Adams Park wasn't enough to prevent Newcastle from finishing bottom of the Aviva Premiership.
Needing a bonus-point triumph in High Wycombe to leapfrog above their opponents, the Falcons managed to complete only half the job, touching down twice in the second period through James Fitzpatrick and Peter Stringer.
A third win in four meant only disappointment, however, as a side that had scored just 24 tries previously all season had simply left themselves with too much to do.
Now the inaugural winners of the Premiership back in 1998 will have to sit and wait to see if they are dropping down a division next year, their fate hanging on whether Bristol go on to win the Championship.
For Wasps the future looks brighter after a difficult season both on and off the field. Hopes are high that a new buyer can soon be found; the fact they are still in the top flight certainly makes them a much more attractive proposition.
In truth they never really looked in danger of suffering the kind of defeat that would drop them to the basement; Newcastle huffed and puffed early on but didn't really come too close to crossing in the first 40 minutes.
Jimmy Gopperth pushed a penalty attempt wide to break the deadlock and from then on the Falcons opted not to bother going for the posts. The one time they did have the ball over the line was from a charged-down Charlie Davies kick that, fortunately for the hosts, ran dead.
Wasps weren't exactly buzzing in attack either, for long periods finding themselves penned in their own territory. However, that all changed in the closing minutes of the half when they all-but killed off Newcastle with 10 quick-fire points.
Nicky Robinson landed his second shot at the posts to finally break the deadlock and then, out of nowhere, a try appeared thanks to a moment of brilliance from Richard Haughton.
The temporary full-back swallowed up a rather aimless clearing kick deep inside his own 22 and then set about scything his way through a broken defensive line. Robinson was there to take Haughton's short ball before looping a pass out for Christian Wade to finish.
With the conversion added, Wasps could head in at the interval knowing they were almost safe. Newcastle, in contrast, had that sinking feeling.
To their credit, the visitors did keep battling through to the very end.
The sin-binning of Ben Broster gave them a bit more space to work and within two minutes of having an extra man they scored, Fitzpatrick forcing his way over for a try that was eventually awarded by the TMO.
The same official ruled out a try from lock Tim Swinson and had that effort been given, a dart from the base of the ruck by Stringer - who tried manfully all afternoon - would have made it a seriously interesting finale.
Instead, Wasps were able to see out the clock and celebrate in defeat. It is a measure of how far they have fallen that just four years ago they were heading towards a Premiership final against Leicester. Now they are just grateful to be still in the same division.