London Welsh win top of table contest
By The Official London Welsh
Promotion hopes boosted with team on form against Streetonians
The biggest crowd of the season gathered at Old Deer Park in expectation of a great top of the table clash and were not left disappointed as both teams gave their all for 80 minutes.
London Welsh kicked off and a fumbled take by Old Streetonians led to a clearance that didn’t leave their own half. From the opening lineout the intensity of the game was immediately obvious and the match continued to to be a fast and physical contest.
Welsh had the early possession. A forward pass ended the first opportunity and a perfectly placed kick by Tom May put them in Streetonians’ 22 but again they were unable to get close enough to the line. Two penalties pushed Streetonians back into the Welsh territory but another excellent kick, this time from fly half Rhodri Dawes, moved play deep into the visitor’s half once more.
A change of referee due to injury only momentarily held up the game and when play resumed Welsh were soon on the attack. A succession of drives by the forwards edged towards the line. Elis Staines fed the ball out to Rhodri Dawes who gave the scoring pass to Rhys Howells, the outside centre breaking through tackles for the first try of the game. Rhodri Dawes added the conversion.
The London Welsh lineout was proving the one weakness in their game and errors in this set piece brought a couple of opportunities to an end. The scrum was working well however and shoved Streetonians across their own line and forced a penalty. Welsh opted for another scrum and marched Streetonians back again for Andrew Black to score. Rhodri Dawes added the extras for a 14-0 lead.
With Welsh playing an attacking game and looking to run every opportunity there was no respite for the Streetonian defence but they held out and limited the home team to two tries in the first half. A well worked try of their own closed the half when a quick ball from the ruck gave centre William Duggan space to run through the Welsh backline to touch down. The conversion took the half time score to 14-7.
Quick thinking by Elis Staines started the move that lead to the first try of the second half. The scrum half took a tap free kick and set up the forwards to make repeated drives around the 5 metre line. Tyron Pelasio, a half time replacement for Sam Canning-Birtles, had positioned himself towards the wing and made the final yards for the try. The conversion bounced off the upright but with only seven minutes of the half played Welsh had stretched their lead to 19-7.
There was no let up in play and the next Welsh move was started by a long run by team captain Chris Lilly, Streetonians successfully clearing their line on this occasion. A yellow card for their captain for a raised arm tackling Tom May added to their difficulties and London Welsh added the bonus point try while he was off the pitch. Good close range passing between David Gabe, Fred White and Rhodri Dawes put the fly half through under the posts. Dawes converted his own try and Welsh held a comfortable lead with just over an hour on the clock.
Streetonians continued to struggle against the Welsh pack but made greater headway in open play where they were able to put pressure on the line forcing Welsh to defend hard. A turnover by the home team took play almost the length of the field with Backs Coach Tom May showing great skills getting the move underway. Welsh launched one more attack and David Gabe added the fifth and final try for a 31-7 victory.
London Welsh extended their lead at the top of the table to nine points with Old Streetonians slipping to fourth. Datchworth and Stevenage are in second and third places respectively. There are no matches next Saturday and the 1st XV return to action with a visit to Royston on 9th February. The next home game is against Stevenage on Saturday 16th February.
Penderyn Distillery Man of the Match: Rhodri Dawes