LONDON Welsh head coach Justin Burnell praised Gordon Ross’s resilience after his dramatic late penalty clinched a Greene King IPA Championship play-off spot.
Fly half Ross struggled with the boot for much of the match, but came good to clinch Welsh’s 29-20 victory over Leeds Carnegie at the Kassam Stadium yesterday.
The penalty sealed a pulsating 60-58 aggregate win for the Exiles, who will now face Bristol in a two-legged final for a place in the Premiership, with the first game in Oxford on Wednesday, May 28.
“He is a quality player – everybody has a bad day.” said Burnell of Ross, who missed five kicks worth 13 points.
“You don’t get 30-odd international caps and play the length he has without being good.
“He was always going to kick that last penalty.
“People around me were saying should we kick for the corner, but I said ‘no he’ll kick it’. And he did.”
Ross’s penalty completed a great comeback from Welsh, who trailed 20-14 and by 13 points on aggreggate with 20 minutes left and looked down and out.
Asked what went through his before the kick, Ross said: “I can’t miss this one, Justin will kill me.
“It was disappointing personally from the boot, but fortunately we got through it by the skin of our teeth.
“It showed fantastic team spirit and effort and the culture that Justin Burnell has created here.”
Ross added: “Leeds probably got to 20-14 and thought they had done enough.
“We never gave up and scored a try when we only had 14 men on the park, which gave us a huge boost.
“The only decent kick I had all day got us back to six points.
“That gave us the confidence to score another try.
“We got there and even though I missed another kick, we knew one score would get us back into it.
“To get from our own 22 and keep possession up to the far 22 to get the three points was excellent.
“In those conditions, the skill levels from some of our players in the second half, was exceptional.”
The match was watched by a crowd of 2,324, which was the Exiles’ best of the season.
“What a fantastic atmosphere today,” said Burnell. “It was good to see the stadium coming to life.
“When we rocked up before the game, to see all the kids enjoying themselves, it shows what we can achieve in Oxford.”
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