Wilkinson returns as Falcons triumph

The return of Jonny Wilkinson in an impressive Powergen Cup win over Sale Sharks made for a good day's work for Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park. [more]

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The return of Jonny Wilkinson in an impressive Powergen Cup win over Sale Sharks made for a good day’s work for Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.

Wilkinson came off the bench after 54 minutes and made an immediate impact, sending Matthew Burke over for a try and controlling the game with his varied kicking.

Burke and Hall Charlton both went over for two tries for the Falcons but it was youngsters Matthew Tait, who also crossed, and Toby Flood who impressed most against an under-strength Sharks outfit.

Tait was involved in just about everything good that the Falcons did, including a sublime first score of the game after just three minutes as Flood released Burke with an inch-perfect cut-out pass and the former Wallaby fed Tait, who burned off Steve Hanley for a superb try in the corner.

Sale’s points all came from the boot of Daniel Larrachea and Falcons boss Rob Andrew praised Tait’s contribution.

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"It’s taken eight or nine months to put him (Tait) back together and we’re just about getting back to where he was," Andrew said.

"He’s an immense talent, lots of these young kids are.

"But he’s only 19, and these young players go through ups and downs for several years until they reach a point – like we’ve seen with Jamie Noon and Jonny (Wilkinson) where you know what you’re going to get week-in and week-out."

England convert Mark van Gisbergen racked up 17 points as Wasps overcame London Irish 30-26.

However, the visitors were indebted to former England fly-half Alex King, who came off the bench to snatch victory with a 79th-minute drop goal and robbed Rikki Flutey and Topsy Ojo, whose try 10 minutes from time had nudged his side ahead, of a fairytale debut for Irish.

Shane Geraghty also crossed for Irish while Eoin Reddan and Jonny O’Connor touched down for Wasps.

Wasps director of rugby Ian McGeechan described the way his side were dominated in the line-out as "disappointing".

The British & Irish Lions coach said: "You are having to chase the game if you haven’t got possession. It becomes a difficult game when you don’t have the ball.

"But I thought we dug in well to win the game."

Irish captain Bob Casey could not hide his disappointment at the result.

"We played the European champions and we should have won that game," he said.

"But there’s a lot of encouragement to be taken, especially the lineout contesting, which was excellent. Nick Kennedy was superb."

Leeds’ early-season struggles continued with a 28-7 home defeat by Llanelli Scarlets.

Wing Tal Selley, centre Matthew J Watkins and prop Iestyn Thomas all crossed the try line for the visitors, while outside-half Gareth Bowen contributed with 13 points from the boot.

The Tykes, who have failed to win a Guinness Premiership match this season, had failed to breach the Scarlets defence until substitute Rob Rawlinson scored a consolation try in the final quarter of the second half.

Leeds director of rugby Phil Davies had only praise for his former club.

"They are a top team. Our set-piece was okay but we lost one or two lineouts and lost the ball in the contact area," he said.

"I think we lost the ball 11 times and we can’t afford to do that."

Scarlets coach Gareth Jenkins was impressed by an ‘unbelievable’ performance from Lions and Ireland flanker Simon Easterby.

Jenkins explained: "I think he proved himself as the Lion he is.

"He was magnificent. The incredible thing is that he is still an improving player, he was top drawer."

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