London Welsh’s frustrating start to their Regional 1 South Central campaign continued with a 29-18 defeat to west London rivals, Wimbledon.
The Welsh side that had been so ravaged with injuries in the opening weeks of the season were probably able to field.their strongest side thus far this season; albeit with a number of notable absentees still. Dafydd Manley returned at 10, allowing Osian McAvoy to switch to fullback. Ewan Gully tasted his first 1st XV action of the season in the centre. Ben Bodinham switched to 8 following the injuries in the backrow in Round 3.
The home side got off to the perfect start with a push over try from a maul after Welsh failed to deal with the kick off to the game. The added conversion made it 7-0.
London Welsh had a series of opportunities to reply with a try of their own, including an interception from Sion Cowdy, who was forced into touch in the oppositions’ twenty-two, as well as centre Rhys Howells’s attempted try being knocked on just as he was about to touch the ball down, thanks to some great pressure from the Dons.
However, the Exiles did make the most of the next set of scoring opportunities, including a penalty, from fly half Dafydd Manley, and a try from Osian McAvoy, thanks to great work from Tololima Savaiinaea, leading to the McAvoy scoring in the corner. The added conversion gave Welsh a 10-7 lead with 30 on the clock.
However, at the 30 minute mark Welsh lost influential tight head Kaid Oneill to a hamstring problem. This made the dominace to that point at scrum time, much more difficult for the remainder of the contest.
The visitors then extended their lead further on 35 minites through a penalty from Manley, who had missed a further attempt only five minutes earlier. This gave Welsh a 7-13 lead. However, the hosts chipped away at the Exiles’ advantage with a penalty of their own to make it 13-10 with 3 minutes to go in the half.
Wimbledon who now had the momentum scored their second try of the game, on the brink of the half. The added conversion made it 17-13.
The end of the half was indeed frantic and an excellent spectacle for the neutral. In the dying embers of the half, London Welsh retook the lead through Sion Cowdy. The winger won the ball from a Dons ruck deep in the Exiles twenty-two, he from there Cowdy he length of the pitch, dodging several tackles, before stretching to score in the corner. The missed conversion gave Welsh a half time lead of 18-17.
Ten minutes into the second half, Wimbledon retook the lead thanks to a mistake caused by a bounce which neither of the recovering London Welsh backs reacted to; uucky on Welsh would be an inderstatment. It was an easy pick up for the Dons winger, who strolled over. The missed conversion made it 22-18.
With ten minutes to go, London Welsh went down to fourteen men after Dafydd Manley was sent to the bin after a series of penalties ended the referee’s patience. In fact, with 5 minutes to go Welsh went down to 13 men (!) As their chasing of the game led Hywel Williams to have some choice words with the referee, earning him a place in the dug outs for the remainder of the match.
The two-man advantage took its toll on London Welsh (as was the case in Round 1) with Wimbledon getting their bonus point try from the resulting line out. The added conversion made it 29-18.
Despite thirteen men now on the pitch, Wimbledon couldn’t capitalise further, and the final score was 29-18.
Welsh will take great spirit from this match against league contenders away from home; which they will again feel the really should have won. DoR Cai Griffiths Will look ahead to Round 5 and a return to ODP knowing that Welsh are not far off the best in the league.
London Welsh’s next game is at home to Havant RFC, which kicks off at 3pm.