London Welsh returned to winning form with a 48-12 victory over Chichester at Old Deer Park on Saturday in Round 13 of the league campaign. Welsh responded perfectly to their unexoected loss at Guildford last weekend, scoring eight tries in total.
Welsh were bolstered from the squad that stumbled at Guildford with the return to action of a number of players which resulting in 8 changes to the match day team sheet. This included a return for star performer Rohan Pixley at 7.
The Exiles started with a try within the first five minutes, thanks to Andy May. From a penalty, Welsh kicked for touch into the Chichester 22. After winning the line out, Welsh’s pack proved too much for the visitors, and the hooker, who hasn’t played for the first XV since 2018, crashed over to score. Lloyd Davies added the conversion.
Minutes later, the home side got another. Welsh had a scrum in the opposition’s 22, after a series of phases and patient play from the Exiles, an overlap was created, and the ball found Tom Hunt, who scored in the corner to notch up his 6th try of the season and take him to joint top try scorer with Paolo Peschisolido. Despite the conversion being missed, it was clear that the home side were looking for more and were in dominant mood.
Welsh got their third try of the afternoon in the 15th minute through Captain James Buncle. After winning a penalty, the home side chose to kick for the corner. Winning the lineout, Welsh chose to go for the maul. It proved too much for Chichester as the Norwegian international powered his way over. With the conversion made, it was 19-0.
Chichester weren’t going down without a fight however, as they responded with a converted try of their own after a flowing backline counter attack.
Ten minutes before the break, London Welsh got their bonus point try through Ben West. After building pressure on the halfway line, fly half Lloyd Davies found West in acres of space out wide, with a delicately weighted kick and great vision from Davies – West was put clean away and the big second row produced a finish that any winger would be proud of. The lock caught it and scored a walk in try in the corner. The extras were missed.
On the brink of half time, Welsh got their fifth try of the game through Paolo Peschisolido. The flying winger picked up a grubber kick from centre, Louie Groark, to score in the corner. That try made him the current top try scorer of the season retaking the outright mantle that Tom Hunt had split with Peschisolido for all of 20 minutes. With the conversion missed, Welsh had a half time lead of 29-7.
The Exiles continued the second half in the same manner that they did the first, scoring within five minutes of the restart through Jack Anderson. After a charged down kick, Welsh build pressure deep into the Chichester half. Eventually, the ball came to the number eight, who muscled his way over to score. Davies’ conversion made it 36-7.
After another try from the visitors, this time unconverted, Welsh immediately responded with another try from Peschisolido (8th of the season). An outstanding break away from replacement, Jacob Butler, led to two support runners by his side, he offloaded the ball to Nixon, who then offloaded it to the Peschisolido, who scored in the corner. The added conversion made it 43-12.
Welsh’s final try came from a home debutant, Louie Groark. Another brilliant break from Butler saw him getting nearly past the whole team, but is eventually brought down just before the line. The home side quickly recycled the ball for the centre to score in the corner. A missed conversion made the final score, 48-12.
As Welsh sign off the first half of the season in style, there is now a degree of daylight at the top of the league; Welsh lead the way 6 points clear of Camberley in second. Chichester sit just outside the promotion mix after the loss, in 5th.
Welsh kick off the second half of the season with a home match against fellow Exiles London Irish in Round 14 next weekend. Welsh will be looking to extend their unbeaten home record to 5 clear years with this victory and in the week that marks exactly 5 years since the last professional game at Old Deer Park in the old era (Welsh beating London Scottish that day). Given the 6 point lead at the top Welsh will top the table at the turn of the year irrespective of the result.
Man of the Match on the day went to the simply outstanding Rohan Pixley who was sorely missed in Round 13. The Australian back row was commanding as ever and drew extreme praise from the opposition management post match. Strong performances also from Peschisolido with his two tries, Ben West, Ed Couzens who is starting to find his feet and the returning Adam Nixon.
Scorers: Andy May, Tom Hunt, James Buncle, Louie Groark, Ben West, Jack Anderson and Paolo Peschisolido (x2).
Conversions: 4 x Lloyd Davies (50%)