IN an astonishing reversal of form, London Welsh were decidedly second best against lowly Plymouth Albion on Saturday going down 36-15 – and so lost top spot in the Greene King IPA Championshipble.
When they sides met at the Kassam Stadium in September, Welsh had crushed the visitors 40-9 , while before this encounter they stood 27 league points and eight places above Plymouth.
Yet that counted for nothing as Plymouth belied their position by running in five tries against an off-colour visitors.
On an afternoon when Welsh could do little right and Albion little wrong, the Exiles saw Rotherham Titans leapfrog them at the top of the table, courtesy of their victory over Moseley.
To surrender top spot will have hurt, but not as much as the error-strewn display which saw Welsh leak three tries in the opening 13 minutes.
Thomas Bowen’s try second of the game wrapped up the bonus point for the home side with seven minutes of the first half still to play.
And although Seb Steg-mann’s sixth of the season hinted at a second half recovery, it never materialised and Chris Elder’s late score capped a miserable afternoon for Plymouth.
The fall-out means Welsh won’t be short of motivation when they face Rotherham Titans at the Kassam this Sunday, with head coach Justin Burnell no doubt demanding a response from his side.
Welsh’s poor start was encapsulated by three times being penalised at the breakdown – the second of which gave Albion the field position to drive up to the Welsh line and Bowen crossed for the first of his brace. Declan Cusack stroked over the first of his four conversions.
The set scrum was the one area of the game where Welsh enjoyed supremacy, and it provided Gordon Ross with the opportunity to hit back with a penalty That failed to dampen the home side’s early impetus and Plymouth went over again with Toby Howley-Berridge touching down Paul Rowley’s grubber kick.
Cusack added the extras and four minutes later extended the Plymouth lead to 21-3 by a converting a break-out try Sam Matavesi.
Fourteen minutes played, Welsh trailed by 18 points.
They began the process of clawing their way back into the game when Ross pushed a penalty into the corner and his pack drove its way over, Nathan Trevett the try scorer.
Ross’s conversion came back off a post.
The try should have settled Welsh, but Plymouth wrapped up the bonus when Cusack and Bowen, combined to send the winger over for his second try, converted by Cusack.
Welsh responded. After winning ascrum against the head James Tincknell – an eleventh hour replacement for the injured Tom May – set up Seb Stegmann to cross.
Ross slipped as he attempted his conversionbut it still went over to make it 28-15 at the break.
The Exiles did not score again.
Cusack’s penalty extended the Albion lead , and they kept it tight by kicking long, forcing Welsh to play from deep.
Albion’s fifth try from the final play of the game, summoned up Welsh’s afternoon, as a clearance only found replacement Chris Elder who collected and ran down the wing to score.
Plymouth Albion: Mugford, Bowen, Howley-Berridge, Stevens, Woods (Warner 38), Cusack (Elder 69), Rowley, Rice (Morton 80), McGregor (Evans 69), Fairbrother (Harrison 80), Beukeboom, Oakley, Langley, Matavesi, Stephen (Ascrift-Leigh 80). Rep not used: Cushion.
London Welsh: Awcock, Stegmann, Tincknell, Parker, Scott, Ross (Robinson 76), Cook (Frost 52), Trevett (Hepburn 69), Vella (Morris 60), Edwards (Tideswell 69), Nimmo (Pienaar 47), Browne, Lees, Kirwan (capt), Thorpe (Denbee 80).
Referee: C Maxwell Keyes (RFU).