London Welsh headed into the Round 21 match knowing that a bonus point win of five league points to Hammers nil, would mean a place in National League 3 next season but a determined Hammersmith & Fulham scored two late tries to postpone the promotion celebration. The game proved very similar to the away reverse fixture in that Welsh dominated much of the game and stretched out to commanding lead, only to see Welsh relax and be pulled back in to a game in the dieing embers.
London Welsh got the match underway on a windy afternoon at ODP. Welsh were boosted by the return of several players missing from the Round 20 defeat at Medway, but we’re handed further injuries woes that meant Matt Pollen, Paolo Peschisolido and Will Ponty were added to an already not insignificant list of absentees.
Welsh launched the first attack of the game through the centre and forced the visitors to concede.a penalty in front of the posts, A quick tap by Adam Nixon took H&F by surprise and Tom hunt finished the move with a stretch over line to score. Lloyd Davies’ conversion curled in through the posts for a 7-0 lead after 3 mins.
Welsh took possession from the restart but a turnover in midfield handed a pen and a chance to move downfield. A cross kick was poorly fielded and Welsh found themselves under pressure as the ball swiftly moved towards their line. Hunt was deemed to deliberately knock on as he made the final tackle in the corner and received the first yellow card of the game.
Hammersmith looked to play an expansive game and from the wing a long kick downfield bounced nicely to be regathered and run in for their opening score. The conversion was missed.
Welsh work through phases gaining territory and putting Hammersmith defence under pressure. Another deliberate knock, this time by.a Hammersmith player, produced a yellow card just as Hunt retook the field. The one man advantage was put to full effect with fast hands getting the ball out to Jacob Butler who went over the 100th league try of the season. Davies added the conversion.
A scrum against the head gave Welsh an unexpected chance to attack again, Butler went on a solo run only for his chip over the fence l defensive line to run dead. Hammersmith were next to threaten, a well executed move down the touchline falling down with the final pass.
The third yellow of the game went to Ewan Gully for a dangerous tackle and Welsh saw out half with 14 on the pitch. In the final play before the break Welsh add their third try. An attacking scrum on the 5m line was controlled well by Tom Williams and the number 8 touched down under the posts. Davies’ added the conversion and Welsh completed the half 21-5 ahead.
Welsh faced a second half playing into the wind and Ben West took pitch in the first few minutes to replace Tom Baldwin. Hammers took less than five minutes to add the scoreboard again. A penalty kick gave them a lineout, the throw went to the front and space opened up to go through for their second of the try. The conversion narrowed the Welsh lead to nine points.
A Tom Williams charge threatened Hammersmith’s 22 for first time in the half but Welsh were unable to progress further with that move. Territory came through a penalty kick to touch, the pack drove to the line and the ball was passed to the wing where Louis Groark went over for the bonus point try. The conversion went wide. A further change for Welsh was made as Andy Black took the field to replace Ed Couzens.
Welsh found themselves on the wrong side of a series of penalties resulting in a yellow card for Jack Anderson when the forward failed to retreat the required 10 metres. The final London Welsh replacement of the game was made when Club Captain Lilly left the field for replaced Iwan Humphreys to make his 1st XV debut.
Butler and Black both made good progress towards the line and when a penalty was awarded Davies stepped up kicks to extend lead to 29-12 with a little over 10 minutes to go.
Hammersmith showed the same determination that we saw in the away leg of the fixture and continued push for points. Sustained pressure on Welsh line was defended well until a forward pass handed Hammersmith a 5m scrum. The ball was passed the width of pitch to score in corner and take the visitors within another try of taking two bonus points. That moment came within a few minutes Hammersmith stepped up a gear and found the Welsh defence lacking. Their final try and conversion earned them the two points and ended Welsh hopes of finishing the game with promotion secured.
Full time: London Welsh 29 Hammersmith & Fulham 24
Player of the Match : Jacob Butler
Scorers: Tom Hunt, Louie Groark, Tom Williams and Jacob Butler.
Match attendance 381.
The league takes a break next Saturday and our 1st XV return to action on 26th March with a trip to Farnham