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RUGBY UNION: Welsh's unbeaten record goes in battle of Exiles
10:00am Monday 14th October 2013 in Sport
London Welsh’s unbeaten start to the season came to an end on Saturday as London Scottish won 32-26 in the battle of the Exiles at Newbury.
The first instalment in what will be a four-part saga this season, Welsh will now have to wait until their December 21 league meeting at the Kassam Stadium for the chance to level things up.
In Saturday’s British & Irish Cup Pool 2 opener, two early Miles Mantella tries laid the foundations for Scottish to inflict a first defeat in seven outings on Justin Burnell’s Greene King IPA table-toppers. Welsh had, however, made 13 changes from the side that beat Rotherham in the league the week before.
Scottish took advantage of Dante Mama’s sin-binning after Alex Davies had given Welsh the lead with a third- minute penalty.
But the centre’s try and the boot of the Welsh scrum half Davies ensured the home side trailed by just a point at half-time, 14-13.
Davies’ third penalty edged Welsh into the lead upon the restart.
However, an excellent kicking display by Dan Newton and a couple of long-range strikes from Oli Groves saw Scottish home, despite Ben Pienaar crossing late on for Welsh to leave the result in the balance right up until the final whistle.
Amidst the unfamiliar surroundings of Newbury RFC’s Monks Lane, Welsh and Scottish did battle for the 65th time since their first meeting in 1885.
Just as then, it was Scottish that came out on top to pull within six wins of Welsh on the head-to-head. Davies gave Welsh the lead, but a stray foot in touch from Joe Ajuwa would prove costly as Scottish found a way through from the lineout. Mike Doneghan, Jamie Stevenson and Jim Thompson sent Mantella over in the corner. Newton converted.
Welsh then lost Mama to the sin bin as the officials took exception to the way the centre left James Love on the turf, and Scottish took swift advantage. Oli Grove, on as a blood replacement for Love, broke through the Welsh midfield and race clear Mantella.
Newton converted but then spurned the chance to further extend the Scottish lead with a missed penalty attempt Mama returned to the fray but crucially Welsh were not able to make the inroads against 14-man Scottish, as Scottish had while the Welsh centre was off the pitch. Spivey returned with no damage to the scoreboard in his absence.
Welsh, though, would finish the first half strongly. Davies added his second penalty and then Mama intercepted in midfield. Although unable to make much ground, Welsh kept the ball alive and Billy Moss suddenly popped up behind enemy lines. From there, it was always on, and although Ajuwa was hauled down in the corner, Mama was on his shoulder to go over from close range. Davies added the extras and just a point separated the sides at the break.
Six minutes into the second half, Davies edged Welsh back in front for the first time since his third minute penalty.
It was a lead they held for 11 minutes before Newton fired over a brace of penalties. Davies replied to again leave just the bare minimum between.
Welsh had enjoyed the balance of play in the third quarter, albeit without threatening to unlock a committed Scottish defence.
But as both sides rang the changes in the final quarter the visitors began to edge ahead as the penalty count against Welsh mounted.
Newton and two long-range strikes from Grove looked like they would be enough to secure victory for Scottish.
When London Welsh captain Pienaar drove his way over from close range at the death, it looked like there might be a few anxious moments yet for Scottish to negotiate. But James Buckland’s side made sure of the win when James Graham saw yellow with Welsh under pressure under their own posts, and Newton added his fourth penalty to seal the win.
Welsh head to Pontypridd this Saturday knowing that victory is a must if they are to stay in contention in Pool 2.
London Welsh: Awcock, Ajuwa, Mama, Parker, Scott (Cook 54), Robinson, Davies, Moss (Hepburn 51, Davis, Tideswell (Graham 73), Lees, West, Thorpe (Browne 55), Denbee (Kirwan 67), Pienaar.
London Scottish: Thompson, Love (Grove blood 9-21), Doneghan, Gidlow (Reay 79) Mantella (Grove blood 43-54), Newton, Stevenson, Kilbane (Irish h-t), Calder (Allen 52), Francis (Thiede 48), Spivey, Lyons, Pennycook, Russell (Bright 60), Trayfoot.
Referee: S Gallagher.
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