Following the heavy opening day defeat in Round 1, Welsh travelled to Royal Wootton Bassett intent on setting some records straight and getting their season properly underway. Welsh welcomed back to the squad for their first action this season: Adam Nixon (returning from knee surgery), Matt Pollen, Charlie Bramble (debut), Rhydian George (debut) Max Brewer (debut) and Elliot Hopkin. Rohan Pixley made the bench despite his Red card in Round 1, thanks to the RFU’s quick disciplary decision. The Welsh squad is still significantly depleted with Ben West, Ed Couzens, Ben Bodinham and Tom Baldwin all missing in the second row, Ewan Gully and Rhys Howells both yet to feature in the centre this season through injury, the speedster Jonathan Ilori also yet to feature this season on the wing as he continues he recovery. In addition, Welsh lost the following to injury after Round 1: Sion Cowdy (star performer last week), Paolo Peschisolido, Griff Whitson, Jack Burnett and 1st XV Captain James Buncle all out.
Those looking at RWB would take note of their heavy defeat in Round 1 away at Bournemouth, losing 49-7. Indeed, RWB had a tricky season last term ending up in the bottom 3 of the table. However, the table masked some big wins over some top teams for RWB and in a tight league they could easily have found themselves comfortably in mid table.
Despite the absentees, Welsh were buoyed by some returning big names and were determined to set the record straight. However, things did not start well! Welsh failed to execute a clear exit from receiving the first kick off and from the resulting lineout RWB broke through Welsh defence and their backrow romped under the sticks from 25 meters and Welsh found themselves 7 points down after only 3 minutes.
Welsh were not rattled though and unlike the week before showed great composure to play the territory and possession with Osian McAvoy keeping Welsh in the right parts of the field. Welsh took a further blow on 10 minutes when the returning Matt Pollen in centre had to leave for the remainder of the game having failed a HIA, in only his first appearance this season. Pollen was replaced himself by the returning Adam Nixon, with Louie Groark moving to the centre.
Welsh survived a penalty on 13 mins after McAvoy was found guilty of a no arms tackle (low danger), RWB wasting the opportunity. It was on the 15th minute that Welsh made their early pressure pay, a Penalty to lineout in the RWB 22 allowed the dominant Welsh pack to make ground and opening space for centre Dafydd Manley whop crossed near the posts; Manley converting his own try and the scores were level after 15.
The restart proved again difficult to deal with for Welsh and against the run of play RWB punched straight back with their second try. The restart was knocked on by Welsh and RWB ended with an attacking lineout on the Welsh 5m, their no.6 again barging over off the back for an unconverted try. Welsh 12-7 down after 20mins.
Welsh did now hit their stride though. It is fair to say that the remainder of the half was spent in the RWB 22. Welsh’s second try was the pick of the day! Welsh with a dominant pack released the back line with Dafydd Manley making a break and good ground, Elliot Hopkin showing great hands to end with Louie Groark who ran in unopposed from 20m out (his second in as many games). Manley slotted the conversion from an angle and Welsh led 14-12 after 30 minutes.
Welsh now in the ascendency, the 32nd minute brought a penalty to Welsh as RWB failed to release in the tackle. Crucially, RWB were marched a further 10m for some discussions with the referee, allowing Welsh to stick the ball on the 5m line for an attacking lineout. The Welsh pack secured the line and powered over, with number 8 Jack Anderson coming up with the ball for his first try of the season. Manley missed the conversion and Welsh led 19-12 after 35 minutes.
There was time before the end of the half for a RWB rally and a 5m attacking lineout of their own. However, the Welsh front 5 were in charge at close exchanges and the resulting RWB maul was expertly held up and Welsh entered the half with the lead.
Welsh started the second half with great intent as big Jack Anderson made a wonderful break to carry fully 30 m before the ball was knocked on. It will be pleasing for Welsh that the scrum was evidently dominant throughout the game (as it was at Maidenhead in Round 1), this was used to good effect in the second half with Welsh winning 3 scrum penalties. Welsh spent 85% of the second half in the RWB 22 and it will perhaps be one criticism from the match day that Welsh failed to gain the 4th bonus point snatching try.
In the dominance RWB were reduced to 14 men on 53 minutes as hands in the ruck were the only answer to Welsh waves up front. The sight of Aussie flanker Rohan Pixley entering the field on 57 minutes will have been a lift to Welsh and a daunting prospect for RWB. A mention in despatches for debutant Rhydian George at 7, diminutive in figure the 7 was everywhere and an eternal nuisance to the opposition at breakdown time, this young man has a real engine. As the pressure continued RWB received their 2nd yellow on 59 minutes, again for infringement in the ruck, this left RWB down to 13 men for 2 minutes. Welsh decided to put the game to a 2 score affair as Daf Manley converted the penalty and taking Welsh to a 10 point lead 22-12 after 60 minutes.
As stated, Welsh should have finished the game off by the 65 minute mark but they were unable to finish the plethora of opportunities that they created. RWB did manage one further attacking move in the Welsh 22 as an excellent 50/22 led to an attacking lineout and maul. However, the Welsh pack having none of it and the maul was held up just as RWB had returned to the full compliment on the field. The final whistle handed Welsh their first victory of the season 22-12, neither side managing a bonus point.
This was a very confident and commanding display on the road for Welsh. Welsh will feel that as much as the score line last week flattered Maidenhead, the score line this week did not tell the full story. However, following Round 1 the important take from Round 2 was the win. It will be pleasing to see the side getting up to the speed and confidence of last season and to see some of the long absentee list returning.
Welsh return to Old Deer Park next week for their first home game of the season. A big crowd is expected as Welsh look to build some momentum; further returning players will bolster the squad.
London Welsh Player of the Match: Gareth Lewis
Tries: Manley, Jack Anderson, Louie Groark
Conversions: Manley x 2
Penalties : Manley x 1
|September 10, 2022||3:00 pm||Regional 1 South Central||2022/23||80'|
|Lydiard Tregoze, Wiltshire, South West England, England, SN4 8DS, United Kingdom|