- London Welsh lead Championship final by 19 points
- Bristol have it all to do in front of sell-out Memorial Stadium
Photo: Getty Images
London Welsh will take a healthy 19-point lead to the Memorial Stadium next Wednesday after a 27-8 win over Bristol Rugby in the first leg of the Greene King IPA Championship final at the Kassam Stadium.
Non-stop rain in Oxford made for difficult conditions and a game that was dominated by tactical kicking and forward play.
Welsh were the more streetwise in that respect as well as having a dominant scrum and will head to the West Country confident that they can finish the job and secure immediate promotion back to the Aviva Premiership.
Three of the four tries scored on the night came from lineout catch and drives, the exception being a fine effort from Nick Scott who raced home from inside his own half after Welsh won yet more turnover ball.
Bristol’s woes were also compounded by the loss of former Wales captain Ryan Jones and scrum half Luke Baldwin to serious-looking leg injuries towards the end of the first half.
Spilled ball and a high penalty count, running well into double figures, meant Bristol found it difficult to find any of the rhythm that brought them more tries than any other side in the regular season.
But they were first on the scoreboard on five minutes, with flanker Marco Mama’s try justifying the decision to kick a penalty to the corner, a policy that has served Bristol so well all season.
Photo: Getty Images
That was as good as it got for Andy Robinson’s men though. In the space of three minutes, Welsh went from 0-5 down to 14-5 up after scoring twice in very different circumstances.
First, man-of-the-match Matt Corker rose imperiously to claim good lineout ball which resulted in prop Nathan Trevett being driven over.
Then Nick Scott outstripped the cover defence after Chris Cook and Nathan Morris had combined to launch a counter-attack from inside their own 22.
Gordon Ross converted both tries and added a penalty on the stroke of half-time to hand the Exiles a 17-5 lead.
Corker was at it again shortly after the restart with another fine take at the lineout resulting in a try for the ever-industrious Carl Kirwan, which was again improved by Ross.
Scott fluffed a golden opportunity to extend the lead when he spilled a cut-out pass from Seb Jewell with the try line beckoning.
Welsh continued to pile on the pressure and Bristol were reduced to 14 men when Nick Koster was yellow-carded on 68 minutes for going in at the side.
Ross kicked the straightforward penalty, which was later cancelled out by replacement Adrian Jarvis to give Bristol some hope that all can be retrieved in front of a full house at the Memorial Stadium next Wednesday.
Bristol Rugby v London Welsh, Wednesday, June 4, KO 19:45. Live on Sky Sports HD
Seb Stegmann, Rhys Crane, Tom May (c), Seb Jewell, Nick Scott, Gordon Ross, Chris Cook, Nathan Trevett, Nathan Morris, Peter Edwards, Will Spencer, Matt Corker, Peter Browne, Carl Kirwan, Daniel Browne
Replacements: Nathan Vella (for Nathan Morris, 66), Tom Bristow (for Nathan Trevett, 57), James Tideswell (for Peter Edwards, 57), Ben West (for Peter Browne, 63), Richard Thorpe (for Dan Browne, 57), Rob Lewis, Alan Awcock (for Seb Stegmann, 13)
Jack Wallace, George Watkins, Jack Tovey, Ben Mosses, Andy Short, Nicky Robinson, Luke Baldwin, Kyle Traynor, Ross Johnston, Jason Hobson, Ben Glynn, Glen Townson, Nick Koster, Marco Mama, Ryan Jones (c)
Replacements: Rhys Lawrence (for Ross Johnston, 49), James Hall (for Jason Hobson, 49), Mitch Eadie (for Ryan Jones, 30), Ben Skirving (for Ben Glynn, 75), Ruki Tipuna (for Luke Baldwin, 38), Adrian Jarvis (for Nicky Robinson, 57), Adam Hughes (for George Watkins, 65)
Referee: Wayne Barnes