Eight tries and maximum league points from the trip to Battersea Ironsides gave the London Welsh 1st XV a strong start to the 2021/22 season.
DoR Cai Griffiths handed out no less than 11 new league debuts in this first league game since February 2020; including a first start for former Welsh 7s and Cardiff Rugby man Luke Crocker. There was also a return to London Welsh for old favourite in the professional era, Ben West (this being his 80th London Welsh appearance in all).
Welsh got the game underway and Osian McAvoy’s kick was returned upfield for Ironsides but ex-London Welsh player Jack Moates made little distance and play remained in the home team’s half. A scrum and then a penalty to Welsh put Ironsides under early pressure which quickly brought the first score of the game. The pace and good handling of the backs released McAvoy to run through the defence and offload for Jack Burnett to score under the posts. McAvcoy added the conversion for a 7-0 lead after 4 minutes.
The London Welsh supporters didn’t have to wait long for the second try. The Welsh pack were dominant in all areas of the game forcing Ironsides to concede another penalty from a scrum. Rohan Pixley got close to the line and with another penalty advantage being played McAvoy placed a kick crossfield for Liam Chennells to gather and more slick passes put Ewan Gully in space to score. McAvoy’s conversion took Welsh 14 points ahead.
Ironsides bounced straight back with a try just one minute later. A Welsh infringement at the restart took play back to the 22 and Battersea’s winger outpaced the Welsh defence for an unconverted try.
The scoring continued a few minutes later, this time Welsh extending the lead further when the pack took play to Ironsides’ 22 and Gully found a great line for his second try of the game. McAvoy’s successful conversion moved the score to 21-5.
It took just 25 minutes of the match for Welsh to earn their bonus point, this time two forwards linking well for the score. A length of the field break by Jack Burnett had Ben West in support and the pass inside gave West the run in on his first London Welsh league appearance since 2017. The conversion went wide of the posts.
Ironsides’ were soon a man down with a yellow card for a high tackle by their number 7, and as just as his time in the bin was drawing to a close the Welsh number 7, Rohan Pixley was also off for 10 after being penalised for collapsing the maul. The home team took advantage of the additional numbers to score their second of the game and added the conversion for the final points of the half.
Half time – Battersea Ironsides 12 London Welsh 26
Ironsides opened the scoring in the second half taking three points when awarded a penalty in front of the posts but Welsh extended their lead further when the scrum was brought down on the way to the try line and the referee was left no option but to award a penalty try.
Ironsides showed that the game was far from over and closed the gap after poor discipline by Welsh allowed them to progress upfield to add another unconverted try and take the score to 20-33 with 8 minutes of the second half played.
Almost an hour of the game had been played when Andy Black powered over from the base of the scrum for his team’s sixth try, with McAvoy adding his fourth successful conversion. Replacement Jag Mahal, on for Jack Burnett, continued the scoring for the forwards with his debut try, a penalty to the corner allowing Mahal to drive over from the lineout.
Welsh upped the pace again for the final 10 minutes of the game and finished with another fine try. Liam Chennells made a great break, a good line by Ben West stretched Ironsides’ defence further and Jag Mahal was on hand to complete the move and score his second. McAvoy added the conversion. A dominant performance from Welsh all round as the new recruits mixed well with some established London Welsh favourites. With a number of players still missing through injury and to return in the coming weeks, the early season outlook is encouraging.
Thank you to Battersea Ironsides for a tough game and a warm welcome, good luck for the remainder of the season and we look forward to seeing you again in April.
LONDON WELSH PLAYER OF THE MATCH: With a number of stand out performances this was a tough call. However, the honours go to our Norwegian international prop big James Buncle for a commanding performance as the London Welsh pack dominated the match; a great performance from James with ball in hand and in the dark arts at scrum time.
Full time Battersea Ironsides 20 London Welsh 52
TRIES: Ewan Gully (2), Jag Mahal (2) Ben West, Andy Black, Jack Burnett, Penalty Try
CONVERSIONS: Osian McAvoy (6/7 and no conversions for PT) 85%
Next Saturday the 1st XV travel to London Irish. Kick off at 3pm.