Wilko’s Kiwi replacement suffers from nerves

New Zealand fly-half Jimmy Gopperth suffered crippling stagefright as he stepped nervously into the boots of Jonny Wilkinson at Newcastle on Sunday, missing four penalties in a 9-9 Premiership draw with promoted Leeds.

The 26-year-old has been drafted in on a three-year deal from the Auckland Blues to replace England World Cup winner Wilkinson who decamped to Toulon in France during the summer.

But he managed to kick just three of his seven penalty kicks in a poor match.

“Jimmy’s kicking record is pretty good but he was nervous about today,” said Newcastle director of rugby Steve Bates.

“I think everybody was a bit apprehensive about what we were going to do. But Jimmy will develop as the team develops and will get more confident as he gets used to the Premiership.

“He’s his own man, he’s a fantastic player and very confident, so I don’t think it has entered his mind that that’s where Jonny used to play. Jimmy is just a good all-round footballer.” All Leeds’ points came from the boot of fly-half Ceiron Thomas, who landed three penalties of his own but also missed two.

Gloucester defeated troubled Bath 24-5 with winger James Simpson-Daniel claiming a try double while Wales international fly-half Nicky Robinson enjoyed a confident Premiership debut.

Robinson impressively eased his way into the season, scoring 14 points that included a late interception try when he gathered Bath centre Tom Cheeseman’s pass.

Former Bradford rugby league centre Shontayne Hape claimed a consolation touchdown for the visitors, but their cause was not helped by some hapless goalkicking.

Bath had been eager to start emerging from English rugby’s summer of shame by launching their domestic campaign in style.

Three Bath players – last season’s co-captains Michael Lipman and Alex Crockett, together with wing Andrew Higgins – received nine-month bans in August for failing to take drug tests requested by the club.

International forwards Matt Stevens and Justin Harrison also quit the Recreation Ground following respective two-year and eight-month suspensions imposed after they both admitted taking cocaine.

Worcester Director of Rugby Mike Ruddock admitted he was “gutted” after his side lost 20-17 at European Challenge Cup champions Northampton.

Worcester’s outside half Willie Walker was sin-binned with seven minutes to go which ultimately proved crucial as Northampton scored their match-winning try with only two minutes remaining.

Ruddock claimed Walker felt he should not have been penalised by referee Chris White.

Ruddock said: “Walker felt he was ok in the tackle area but referees have to make a call in the heat of the moment.

“The referee is very experienced and we have to support his decision. I felt we could hang on and we could win ugly but the loss of Walker was crucial as they were able to outflank us for the winning try.”

Paul Diggin and Phil Dowson scored Northampton’s tries with Kai Horstmann and Miles Benjamin crossing for Worcester.

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