London Welsh got back to winning ways last weekend in Round 7, with a 45-15 bonus point victory over Bracknell, which saw the Exiles move up to eighth in the table.
Welsh were bolstered with the return to action of several key players, some making their first appearances of the season! The returning players provided a much needed boost given the well documented numerous injuries across the squad so far this season. In particular Round 7 heralded the return of Ben West to the second row in his first appearance of the season, the former Premiership man being a welcome returnee. In addition, top try scorer Sion Cowdy returned to the back three after 3 weeks away with injury and then on international duty with the Ireland 7s side. In all there were 7 changes to the team that took the field against Sutton & Epsom in Round 6.
The last time that Bracknell visited ODP was in the 2001/2002 season and the game kicked off in superb autumnal splendour with perfect conditions for running rugby. Welsh started the match with strong intent and were straight in to the Bracknell 22, some would say with a point to prove following very near misses in the previous rounds agsint the league’s top 2 sides. After some early pressure in the first few minutes, Welsh scored the first try of the afternoon through Osian McAvoy.
A scrum in the opposition’s twenty two led to a big carry from Samoan Kiwi, Lima Savaiinaea. One phase later, the overlap had been created and the ball was offloaded to McAvoy who broke a tackle and scored with a strong arm fend. Dafydd Manley hit the upright with the extras.
Welsh were in no mood to compromise in this match and less than five minutes later, McAvoy scored his second of the afternoon. Welsh had possession on the ten metre line and with the backs looking dangerous and further overlap was created on the blindside, where the ball was offloaded to the fly half who scored in the corner after a further strong fend. Manley added the extras and Welsh were 12-0 up after 10 minutes.
Welsh were relentless and poured out all of their frustration from previous weeks. Welsh got their third try through the returning top try scorer and Irish International Sion Cowdy. The Exiles had possession on the ten metre line with a scrum. The ball was offloaded to the winger who drifted from the wing to the centre of the pitch, before finding a gap and dancing through several tackles to score a marvellous try from within his own half, which is becoming a theme for him this season. Manley added the extras and Welsh were well in control at 19-0 after 14 minutes.
London Welsh had the bonus point all wrapped up mid-way through the first half. Welsh had a lineout on the ten metre line. After a few phases of possession where the Exiles broke through the gain line, a hard, cut out pass was directed towards Ewan Gully. A race was on between the centre and the fullback from the halfway line, Gully won with sprint ease to score under the posts. The conversion was added by Manley and Welsh led 26-0 after 20 minutes.
McAvoy scored his hattrick two minutes later as Bracknell simply could not contain the Exiles. After a series of attacking phases deep in Bracknell’s 22, the fly half collected the ball and muscled his over to collect the match ball. Manley added the extras.
On the brink of half time, London Welsh scored their sixth try of the afternoon, and Ewan Gully’s second of the afternoon with an interception try from the halfway line to dot down under the posts. Manley’s successful conversion made the half time score 40-0. Some fantastic long range and intricate tries were scored in the half and the home faithful were being treated to festival of London Welsh in full stride.
Bracknell started the second half the better of the two teams scoring a couple of tries midway through the second half but failed to make either conversion, in what was a relatively scrappy final forty minutes. It was always going to be a big call for the Exiles to maintain their first half intensity, in a match that was in reality all over after 30 minutes.
However, London Welsh did score their seventh try of the afternoon with eight minutes left through Sion Cowdy. The top try scorer taking his season tally to 5 in just 4 appearances.
The Exiles won a penalty and kicked to the corner. A rolling maul was well defended by the opposition and brought down just before the try line. Patient phase play eventually led to a flat pass out wide for the winger who dived over in the corner. Manley missed the extras.
Bracknell responded with a consolation try right at the death but missed the conversion to make the final score 45-15.
The much needed return of key players, provided the much needed big win that Welsh had much anticipated. Critically, in the context of the season so far, Welsh did not pick up any major injuries from the game, which will be almost as much a relief as the bonus point win itself!
There were excellent performances during the game and the backline as a collective looked unplayable at times, scoring all of the points in the game! Adam Nixon at 9 was his usual consistent and controlling self, Ewan Gully returning in the centre looked straight back to his best. Sion Cowdy fresh from International action was again portent in the back 3. A special mention to new tight head Sam Johnson who made his debut for the 1st XV -he was superb all day and was close to the player of the match. The PoM award though had to go to the hattrick hero Osian McAvoy who from 10 (and occasionally 15) was dangerous all day and showed the cutting edge when it came to finishing! Well done Osian.
London Welsh’s next game is away to Banbury, this Saturday, while their next home game is two weeks later at home to Camberley.
Tries: Osian McAvoy x 3, Ewan Gully x 2, Sion Cowdy x 2
Conversions 5 x Dafydd Manley