London Welsh win tense battle to extend lead at top of the table
The visit to Camberley was always going to be a tough test and it took a strong second half performance to come away with the bonus point win.
Welsh were missing 3 players in the front row that had formed their regular line up in the opening 5 rounds (Ollie Fulljames, Jonny Miles and James Buncle- the latter will return for selection contention next week but the others are more long term) but Welsh were bolstered by new signing Griff Whitson at Prop (former RAMS and Newport Gwent Dragons). Ben West was absent as he sees out his final week of concussion protocol and 1st XV Captain Chris Lilly again missed out as he continues his rehab from a pulled hamstring, he is yet to feature this season. Despite the injuries Welsh fielded a strong side.
Camberley got the game underway and an early knock-on by Welsh gave the home team the first scrum. Some good work through the phases forced the Welsh defence to work hard to keep Camberley away from the try line and a penalty kick up-field eased the pressure.
Camberley continued to take the initiative in the opening minutes, keeping Welsh in their own half and putting together some good attacking moves. A break down the wing almost led to the first score of the game but Jack Anderson’s tackle was just enough to prevent the try. Twelve minutes had been played when Camberley did find their way through. A penalty from a scrum gave them a kick to touch and from the ensuing line-out they moved the ball infield where Charles Hannenfound a gap in the defensive line to score. Matt Smart’s conversion gave the home team a 7-0 lead.
Welsh used the restart to gain possession and take play into Camberley’s half for the first time. Although unable to turn this into points it boosted Welsh confidence and both Lee Chennells and Paolo Peschisolido made progress running from the 22m line. Camberley conceded several penalties and when one fell within kicking range Welsh opted for the posts only for the kick to go wide of the uprights.
Camberley’s lead was extended with 25 minutes on the clock. A penalty against Welsh allowed their forwards to form a driving maul and they retained control and discipline to get across the line and Greg Franzel to claim an unconverted try.
An immediate return to the Camberley half showed the Welsh spirit, a high tackle on Rohan Pixley leading to a penalty kick to touch and another chance for the visitors to get their first points. The pack fought hard to make the final few metres to the line but again Welsh left empty handed and half time was fast approaching.
The last five minutes of the half tipped the balance in favour of London Welsh. Camberley were reduced to 14 players when their number 8 was given a red card for clear foul play directly in front of the referee. Welsh looked to have scored moments later but the ball wasn’t clearly grounded. A minute later and Welsh finally had their first score. Pixley’s carry and then Matt Pollen’s break set up Tom Hunt for a sprint down the line and a try. The conversion was unsuccessful and at half time Camberley led 12-5.
Camberley’s lead was wiped out in the opening minute of the second half. Pace and good handling got the ball moving through the backs with Lloyd Davies, Matt Poillen and Jake Butler all playing their part before Peschisolido showed his pace to score his fifth try of the season. Osian McAvoy’s conversion levelled the score.
A further four minutes of the half had been played when Welsh took the lead for the first time in the game. Camberley were feeling the pressure and conceded a penalty that gave Welsh a lineout 5 metres out. Welsh piled in all but two of their players to form a 13 man maul and Jack Burnett was in possession to score when they drove over the line. The conversion was missed but Welsh now had a five point advantage.
A reshuffle in the Welsh pack was quickly pounced upon by Camberley. The forwards were just adapting to the revised formation when they conceded a penalty at a scrum and Camberley drove over from the lineout for a converted try that gave them the lead again. There was still half an hour to play and Camberley were holding firm despite being a player down.
The final quarter of the match saw Camberley lose the discipline and control that had been so crucial in the first half whilst Welsh showed great character to stay focused and close the game out. Successive penalties were given away as Welsh poured the pressure on the home team and the referee was left no option but to award a penalty try. Welsh lad 24-19 with fifteen minutes remaining.
Camberley threw everything at Welsh in the final stages but the defence held firm and play moved back deep into Camberley’s half. One more chance was given to Welsh when Camberley were penalised again and McAvoy stepped up to claim the three points and deny the opposition a losing bonus point. Welsh played the clock down from the restart and thanks to an assured second half performance headed back to ODP with a bonus point win and another week at the top of the table. This may well prove to be a crucial win come the end of the season.
London Welsh Player of the Match goes to Matt Pollen in the centre for a skillful and intelligent performance; critically playing a starring role in the first two London Welsh tries. Mentions in despatches for Adam Nixon who controlled the game well from 9 and the ever lively and dominant Rohan Pixley at 7. It was good to see Will Ponty look very promising on his debut for the club after a period of injury.
Full time: Camberley 19 London Welsh 27.
Tries: Paolo Peschisolido, Jack Burnett, Tom Hunt, Penalty Try
Con: Osian McAvoy x 2
Pen: Osian McAvoy x 1
Next Saturday London Welsh welcome KCS Old Boys to ODP. Kick off will be at 3pm.