- London Welsh secure immediate Premiership return
- Welsh win 21-20 on the night and 48-28 on aggregate
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London Welsh produced a superb defensive performance to beat Bristol Rugby 48-28 on aggregate in the 2013/14 Greene King IPA Championship final and earn promotion back to the Premiership at the first attempt.
On an emotionally-charged evening in the West Country, Bristol were even denied a winning farewell to the Memorial Stadium, its famous home of 93 years, after Welsh scored twice late on to claim a 21-20 victory on the night.
With veteran fly half and man-of-the-match Gordon Ross dictating play expertly, as well as kicking any points that came his way in stark contrast to opposite number Nicky Robinson, Welsh can now look forward to rubbing shoulders with the elite of English rugby again after a one-year absence.
Chasing down a 19-point deficit from the first leg in Oxford and cheered on by a sell-out 12,000 crowd, Bristol threw everything they had at Welsh but were met by a sea of red every time they attacked.
Robinson had missed two kickable shots at goal by the time Ross increased Welsh’s overall lead to 22 points with a 26th minute drop goal.
Former Wales fly-half Robinson atoned when he found winger Andy Short with a perfectly-executed crosskick, leading to the first try of the evening on 33 minutes. Short still had plenty of work to do but used the greasy surface to slide over in the corner despite the close attentions of Nick Scott.
Welsh struck back almost immediately after Ross’ penalty went in off the post, but Bristol, now against 14 men following Chris Cook’s yellow card for a deliberate knock on, went into the break 8-6 up after Tom May was penalised for not releasing in the tackle and Robinson landed the kick.
Bristol-born No.8 Mitch Eadie got Bristol off to a flying start on the second half when he finished off a short lineout move by racing in from 35 metres. Robinson was off target with the conversion and again with his next penalty before being replaced by Adrian Jarvis approaching the hour mark.
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Ross then stepped up to kick his second penalty of the night to bring Welsh to within four points before Ben Mosses slipped through a rare missed tackle to put replacement Adam Hughes in for a try. Jarvis converted to make it 20-9.
Any hopes Bristol had of producing the comeback of all comebacks were thwarted when Carl Kirwan wriggled over from a lineout drive. He was swiftly followed over the whitewash by Seb Stegmann who showed great footballing skills to dribble a spilled pass from Bristol downfield to score his 13th try of the season and finish the job off in style.
Jack Wallace; Charlie Amesbury, Jack Tovey, Ben Mosses, Andy Short; Nicky Robinson, Ruki Tipuna (c); Kyle Traynor, Ross Johnston, Gaston Cortes, Ben Glynn, Glen Townson, Nick Koster, Marco Mama, Mitch Eadie.
Replacements: Rhys Lawrence (for Ross Johnston, 60), James Hall (for Kyle Traynor, 60), Jason Hobson (for Gaston Cortes, 57), Ben Skirving (for Nick Koster, 68), James Grindal (for Ruki Tipuna, 78), Adrian Jarvis (for Nicky Robinson, 54), Adam Hughes (for Jack Tovey, 67).
Alan Awcock; Seb Stegmann, Tom May (c), Seb Jewell, Nick Scott; Gordon Ross, Chris Cook; Nathan Trevett, Nathan Morris, Peter Edwards, Will Spencer, Matt Corker, Mitch Lees, Carl Kirwan, Richard Thorpe.
Replacements: Nathan Vella (for Nathan Morris, 60 mins), Tom Bristow (for Nathan Trevett, 50 mins), James Tideswell (for Peter Edwards, 41), Ben West, Ollie Stedman (for Mitch Lees, 67), Rob Lewis, Rhys Crane (for Alan Awcock, 36)
Referee: Luke Pearce