London Welsh have lost their first home league match since the start of Project Restart in 2017, after a 17-26 defeat to Camberley, in a top of the table affair. This was a reverse of the away fixture where Welsh had gone to Camberley and left with a bonus point win, whilst preventing the home side securing any league points: Camberley responding likewise at Old Deer Park.
Welsh were able to field a strong side after a number of weeks of chopping and changing in the build up to Round 18 clash. Welsh were missing the talesmanic Ben West from the second row, as well as Sion Cowdy and Jack Burnett who had failed to recover from injury in time for the big game; fly half Lloyd Davies was also unavailable for the game. However, aside from these key figures, Welsh were at full strength.
The much anticipated Match brought a large crowd of over 1100 to Old Deer Park, the largest since the start of the pandemic.
It was the visitors that had the first opportunity to get points on the board with a penalty, after being awarded from a scrum; the scrum proving to be an area which the visitors dominated all game.
However, their attempt at goal went narrowly wide of the posts.
Minutes later, Camberley had a maul within the Welsh twenty-two, but this was well defended by the Exiles, and the danger was cleared.
In the twentieth minute, the first points of the match went to the visitors: good pressure in the Welsh half eventually led to a try after good work from the Camberley pack in the tight. The missed conversion made it 0-5.
Two minutes later, Camberley scored their second try of the match.
A Welsh mistake straight from the restart led to Camberley picking up the ball deep in the Welsh half.
After a quick counter attack, an overlap was created, and their winger scored in the corner. The excellent added conversion made it 0-12 to Camberley after 25 minutes.
London Welsh responded immediately as they faced a situation that they had not seen at Old Deer Park since project reset. Welsh conjured their first try through captain, James Buncle.
After winning a penalty near the Camberley twenty two, the home side decided to go for touch, after setting up the maul, it proved too much to handle for the opposition, and the Norwegian international bundled his way over. McAvoy’s conversion made it 7-12.
Welsh then found their groove and scored a second try of the contest with ten minutes to go in the half, through Jacob Butler.
Patient phase play from Welsh deep in the opposition twenty two was well defended, however, with a penalty advantage, and therefore a free play, the Exiles spread the ball out wide, and Butler scored in the corner with an athletic reach over his head having been felled just short. McAvoy struck an exceptional conversion from the touch line which made it 14-12 as Welsh took the lead in the match.
Welsh were now in what would prove their best stint of the match. The 15 minutes before half time Welsh dominated, with their tales up having taken the lead.
Two minutes before half time Welsh scored a penalty through McAvoy to add to the home side’s lead, and half time, the score was 17-12. Camberley were struggling to contain the Welsh impetus and the penalty count was ticking up. Welsh could be forgiven for not wanting the half time whistle as they pushed for a crucial further score, or potentially a Camberley yellow card – neither came in a period that Welsh did not make the most of their purple patch. The Half finished with Welsh ahead 17-12.
A minute into the second half, London Welsh had the opportunity to add to their lead with a shot at goal, but the attempt went wide of the posts. This could have been a potentially crucial score as it would have created a two score game for Camberley. This indeed proved to be the turning point in the game.
In the forty seventh minute, Camberley went from one end of the pitch to the other, all the way up to the try line, but knocked the ball on just before the white line, thanks to great defending from the home side.
However, Camberley were proving increasingly dominant at scrum time and from the Welsh put in the Camberley pack pushed Welsh off the ball and followed through to also score a try from the resulting loose ball. The conversion was made from in front of the posts to make it 17-19 to Camberley on 50 minutes.
In the sixtieth minute, Welsh had a series of opportunities to score deep in the Camberley half but they were well defended by the visitors, who managed to repel each attack by the skin of their teeth. The last of the Welsh attacks in this phase brought a double whammy! Not only were Welsh forced into touch but Welsh no.6 Jack Anderson was penalised and yellow carded for some ‘hand bags’ as temperatures were raised.
This was the last period of real Welsh pressure as Camberley managed to take control of the game. The scores remained flat until the 78th minute but Welsh struggled to gain territory and lost a number of key lineout throws on their own ball.
In the dying embers of the match, Camberley scored their bonus point try, to secure the contest. The added conversion made the final score, 17-26.
This was a contest that could have gone either way if periods of the game had been better managed by Welsh. However, Camberley are a very strong and talented outfit and for the first time since project reset, Welsh must hold their hands up and say that they lost to the better side on the day.
A big congratulations to Camberley who brought an excellent supported base with them, who were a credit to the club. This was one of those days where the rugby world was the winner, Supporters, officials and players from both clubs coming together for an excellent rugby day and advert for community rugby.
Welsh now move on and will regroup as the league is blown wide open. Welsh remain top of the league clear by one point and five ahead of third placed Medway. The next two months are set to be enthralling as both Camberley and Welsh must travel away to face Medway; GAME ON as they say.
Welsh player of the match, sponsored by Penderyn, went to the tireless talent that is Rohan Pixley. The Australian was dominant all afternoon in the loose and proved the typical handful when in possession.
Tries: James Buncle, Jacob Butler
Conversion: McAvoy x2
Penalties: McAvoy x1