The scene was set for the Druids on Saturday as the performance squad received almost a clean bill of health! The squad is now at the ‘fullest’ that it has been in the season so far, meaning that both the 1st XV and the Druids were fully loaded for this weekends league fixtures.
Since the turn of the year the Druids 2nd XV have benefited particularly with returns from injury throughout squad and it was only a matter of time before the felt the Druids wrath!
Such was the strength in depth this weekend that Druids boasted 11 players in the match day squad that had played 1st XV Rugby in National 3 this season.
There was a return to action for Hywel Williams at 9 (playing his first Druids league rugby) and continued rebuilding for James Smith and Ben Watts, all coming back from long term injury. So strong was the Druids squad that nobody would have questioned the selection had it been this weekends 1st XV team sheet. This will be exactly what DoR Cai Griffiths and Druids coach Paul Bessent will have ordered, a performance squad that is largely interchangeable week on week.
You have to feel for Rosslyn Park Bs who may have been deceived by the league table in the Merit Premier league before KO. The injury crisis that Welsh had suffered in October through to December had meant that the Exiles were unable to field a Druids team in 3 rounds of the Merit League- distorting the league and true strength of the Druids.
The visitors will quickly have had any illusions shattered as Welsh took it to Park from the off! In the first 10 minutes Ryan Mullins and Ben Watts both crossed for the Druids and when Daf Manley and Elis Staines brought up the bonus point before 20 minutes had passed (all converted by Manley) things looked ominous for Park.
Morgan Churchill (who has scored 3 tries in 4 1st XV Appearances this season as testimony to current Druids strength) crossed on 35 minutes for the final score of the a powerful half from the Druids; Manley missing his first kick of the day to make the score at half time 33-0 to the Druids.
Welsh started the second period much as they ended the first, with a second from Watts and the first of two from Conan Osborne – in short fashion.
In truth Welsh were in total control in the second period as the Druids clearly had a point to prove now that the squad were at full strength.
Additional tries came from Osborne X2 (making 3 for the day), a third for Watts Iwan Humphreys x 2, Lewis Tucker and before the final whistle and with conversions added by Manley and two from Elis Staines to take the final Welsh tally to 71 points. Credit to Park that they didn’t not capitulate and even added a consolation score of their own on 70 minutes to make the final score 71-5.
There were outstanding performances from quality all over the park for the Druids. Manley exceptional at 10 having dropped down from the 1st XV. Hywel Williams returning at 9 proved that selection at o for the 1st XV will be tough in the 5 remaining games of the season. Conan Osborne at 15 was elusive and quick in capitalising on any loose kicking, whilst feeding his wingers well.
In the pack the addition of Myles Keane down from the 1st XV added extra solidity as the young front row looked impressive. Captain Lewis Tucker was powerful and abrasive from 8.
However, the Player of the Match accolade goes to a typically abrasive and uncompromising performance from the returning Ben Watts in the second row. He was outstanding all day in only his 2nd game back having missed all if this season so far, he is pushing himself back into the minds of the coaching team for 1st XV selection – bagging two tries in the game to boot.
Congratulations to all and we look on with interest as competition for places throughout the Performance Squad hots up. The Druids are next in action on 11 February away to Old Streetonians in Round 15 of the Premier League at Hackney Marshes.
Scorers: Mullins, Watts x 2, Manley, Staines, Churchill, Osborne x 3, Tucker, Tomkys, Humphreys x 2, Keane
Con: Manley x 6
Elis Staines x 2