London Welsh 29, Cornish Pirates 20.
(London Welsh win 66-41 on aggregate).
By Ed Mezzetti.
on aggregateThere were cheers and boos at the Kassam Stadium on Wednesday night as London Welsh emerged victorious.
Welsh fans celebrated their side’s emphatic overall victory, but jeered RFU president Willie Wildash and his successor Paul Murphy, from Abingdon, who presented skipper Jon Mills with the trophy.
The Exiles were told by the RFU last week that they would not be allowed to play in the Premiership as they did not have ‘primacy of tenure’ at the Kassam – their designated stadium.
It was this controversial decision, which came despite other Premiership sides such as Wasps, London Irish and Saracens also sharing with football clubs, that prompted the fans’ anger at the presentation.
Surely after this, Welsh must appeal and win their case.
Pirates were clearly fired up and struck first with a fourth-minute drop goal from fly half Aaron Penberthy.
Welsh, however, were awarded a penalty at their first scrum and full back Alex Davies levelled proceedings on the night.
Davies’s opposite number Rob Cook got himself on the scoresheet to make it 6-3 with a penalty soon afterwards.
It was scrappy stuff at times with Pirates winning several turnovers, but looking loose on their own lineout ball.
But the game came alive on 23 minutes when Pirates wing Matt Evans cantered over on the right after Cook led a breakout and kicked ahead.
Cook converted for 13-6 and the deficit was now just nine points.
Welsh threatened in patches, particularly through powerful wing Joe Ajuwa, but lacked fluency.
They also had to weather plenty of pressure, but Davies missed a penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Davies had another penalty chance soon after the break – and made no mistake this time.
Pirates wing David Doherty saw his clearance charged down by Welsh centre Hudson Tonga’uiha and the hosts ended up winning a penalty.
Davies’s effort required the video referee’s assent to be allowed, but crucially it was now only 13-12 on the night.
Welsh began to exert more control over proceedings, with greater pace and precision coming from their back line.
With Ajuwa and skipper Mills prominent, they earned another penalty in the 62nd minutes, which Davies sent over to give them the lead on the night for the first time.
The Welsh celebrations could really begin in earnest when Tonga’uiha powered through some weak tackling to score their first try on 69 minutes.
Davies’s conversion made it 22-13 and it looked all over.
Pirates drove replacement prop Ryan Storer over on 76 minutes, Cook converting, but it was now all about pride for the visitors.
The icing on the cake came when replacement scrum half Jack Moates dummied his way across from what proved the final play.
Davies converted to give Welsh a 29-20 victory on the night.
London Welsh: Davies, Scott, J Lewis (Jewell 67), Tonga’uiha, Ajuwa, Ross, R Lewis (Moates 75), Lahiff (Moss 74), George (Ma’asi 54), Tideswell (Bateman 18), Mills (capt) (Purdy 77), Corker, Beach (Russell 77), Denbee, Jackson.
Cornish Pirates: Cook, Evans, Pointer, Locke (Cooper 28), Doherty, Penberthy, Cattle (capt) (Kessell 57), Rimmer, Ward (Elloway 63), Paver (Storer 67), McGlone (Myerscough 57), Nimmo, Ewers, Burgess, Maidment (Marriott 50).
Referee: D Rose (RFU).
Attendance: 4,000 (est).