London Welsh concluded their 22/23 league season with a 20-10 victory over Maidenhead.
Victory for Welsh made it five wins in the last eight games of the season.
Welsh secured a sixth place finish in their first season returning to the old National Leagues against a side that the Exiles had suffered a heavy loss to in the opening game of the season. This match stood testimony to the progress that the squad has made through the season and having overcome some horrific periods of injury.
The theme of the season and after a gruelling February and March, the line up was short of a number of players: Tom Ireland Life, Tololima Savaiinaea, Ewan Gully, Rhys Howells, Jacob Butker, Ed Cousins and Rhydian George were all injured for this one- Ben Bodinham was away on international duty with Switzerland. This allowed a further 2 new caps as Sam King and Bryn Hall both stepped up from the Druids for the first time. That took the tally of players used by the first 15 this season to 58! Such has been the level of injuries in the squad this campaign.
The home side started much the better of the two teams, Andy Black (moved to 8 for the day) scored the opening try before many of the London Welsh faithful had even made their way over to their seats! The big ball carrier scoring a try in the first minute thanks to a trade mark bounding breakaway and thanks to some great footwork! Osian McAvoy added the extras.
Three more points were added to Welsh’s tally when McAvoy slotted over a penalty half way through the first half, however the fly half also had another shot at goal which was just short of the posts on 28 minutes.
Ten minutes before half time the exceptional Tom Hunt added another converted try in what was an impressive first half from the Exiles. The full back’s try meant that he ended the season as the joint top try scorer along side wing Sion Cowdy on ten tries for the season; this was an impressive tally for Hunt considering that he has only played eight league games having returned to Welsh in January! This is the second consecutive season that Tom heads the try scoring charts!
The visitors responded with an unconverted try of their own just a few minutes before half time, to give London Welsh a 17-5 lead at the interval.
Three minutes into the second half, Welsh added to the lead from a McAvoy penalty. This stretched the game to a 3 score deficit for the visitors, a task that they never truly looked like achieving.
The second forty wasn’t as exciting as the first half as there were handling errors aplenty for both sides as well as number of penalties too. This did not stop some scintillating running rugby though from both sides, with plenty of endeavour shown!
Maidenhead’s pressure on Welsh’s defence started to show as the second half progressed, with more and more attempts to score being thwarted. The Wrlsh defence was more than a match for all that was thrown at it, although the visitors were unlucky not to score their consolation try earlier. Thr visitors did score an unconverted try in the dying embers of the game to make it 20-10.
In the very last act of the match, Osian Mcavoy had the chance to extend Welsh’s lead and end the contest once and for all. The fly half’s shot at goal fell just short and was the last action of the match, and of the season to make the final score 20-10.
London Welsh finish the league season in sixth place in the Regional 1 South Central table, however the season is not done for the Exiles as of yet as they now play three cup games starting on the 1st April with more information coming out soon.
Director of Rugby Cai Griffiths commented ‘ I thought that the boys were excellent today. They showed the spirit that this squad has and how far they have come in a short period of time since September. We will take some time now to enjoy the cup, before a big off season and pre season starting in June. I am relishing the next stage of project reset as we continue our rebuild to challenge for the Regional 1 title in 2023/24’.
There were standout performances on the day for Osian McAvoy and Adam Nixon at half backs; a partnership that has grown to be pivotal. Tom Hunt was as devastating as ever in open play and Sion Cowdy an ever present treat. The back row pairing of Ben Davies and Rohan Pixley looked unplayable like a cheat code combination and Sam Johnson at 3 was a rock. Mentions in despatches for James Buncle and and Jack Burnett who play their last games: James our Club Captain hangs up his boots at the age of 38 and with many years of National league rugby under his belt from London Scottish, C S stags and finishing with us. He has been an inspirational talisman since joining in 2020 and we very much hope that the Norway International will remain with the squad next season in a coaching and administrative role. Jack Burnett takes a season out of Rugby to repair his battered body after 3 seasons of injury plagued campaigns.
Player of the Match went to second row Charlie Bramble who was simply superb in set piece and with ball in hand.
Osian McAvoy finished the season as top points scorers on 146 points from 21 games; you would not bet against him taking the player of the season award at next month’s player awards dinner. He finished with a 72% kick success rate.
We look forward to seeing you all for the pending Cup campaign with fixtures released in the coming week.
Tries: Andy Black, Tom Hunt
Con: McAvoy x2
Pen: McAvoy x 2