- London Welsh take 37-21 lead into second leg of Final
- Sam Hill's absence causes pack reshuffle for Pirates
Photo: RFU Archive
After 31 games over ten months, the destination of the Championship title all comes down to 80 minutes of rugby, with London Welsh taking a 16-point lead into Wednesday's second leg with the Cornish Pirates at the Kassam Stadium (kick-off 7:45pm).
Last week’s first leg at Mennaye Field produced seven tries and a fantastic, open game of rugby, with the Exiles coming out on top 37-21.
Grant Pointer’s try gave the home side the perfect start, only for Welsh to respond with 23 unanswered points, wingers Joe Ajuwa and Nick Scott both crossing the whitewash.
A penalty try awarded to the Pirates two minutes before half-time closed the gap to 23-14 at the break, but the Exiles struck twice in the space of a minute through Hudson Tonga’uiha and James Lewis.
Phil Burgess’ late try keeps the destination of the Championship title in the balance.
With Sam Hill away on England U20s duty, the Pirates have made one change in the backs from the side that started last week against the 'Dragons', with Phil Burgess moving from the back-row to centre.
Dave Ward takes the open-side berth and Rob Elloway is selected at hooker, while fresh faces on the bench are Ben Maidment, Tom Cooper and Rhodri McAtee.
Oxford’s Kassam Stadium is no stranger to rugby having staged the European Shield final in 2005 and the Amlin Challenge Cup final in 2002, 2003 and 2005.
London Welsh: 15. Alex Davies, 14. Nick Scott, 13. James Lewis, 12. Hudson Tonga’uiha, 11. Joe Ajuwa, 10. Gordon Ross, 9. Rob Lewis; 1. Max Lahiff, 2. Dan George, 3. James Tideswell, 4. Martin Purdy, 5. Matt Corker, 6. Jon Mills (capt), 7. Mike Denbee, 8. Ed Jackson.
Replacements: 16. Vili Ma’asi, 17. Billy Moss, 18. Greg Bateman, 19. Lee Beach, 20. Ben Russell, 21. Jack Moates, 22. Seb Jewell.
Cornish Pirates: 15. R. Cook, 14. G. Pointer, 13. P. Burgess, 12. A. Suniula, 11. D. Doherty, 10. C. Thomas, 9. G. Cattle (capt); 1. C. Rimmer. 2. R. Elloway, 3. A. Paver, 4. L. McGlone, 5. I. Nimmo, 6. D. Ewers, 7. D. Ward, 8. K. Marriott.
Replacements: 16. Ryan Storer, 17. Mike Myerscough, 18. Ben Maidment, 19. Tom Kessell, 20. Tom Cooper, 21. M. Evans, 22. Rhodri McAtee.