London Welsh marked their first game at Old Deer Park for 19 months with a comprehensive 73-10 victory over Edinburgh Academical, to kick-start the club’s British & Irish Cup campaign.
It was an emphatic return to winning ways for Justin Burnell’s side in the wake of the previous weekend’s defeat at Bedford Blues – the Exiles’ first Championship loss of the season.
The win also got the Exiles up and running in Pool 2, after defeats to London Scottish and Pontypridd, although Scottish and Ponty remain in pole position to progress to the quarter-finals.
The London Welsh head coach shuffled his pack for the visit of the Accies, giving others the chance to impress. He’ll have been pleased by what he saw.
James Lewis’s second-minute score set the tone and Welsh effectively made the game safe when Mike Denbee crossed and then debutant Will Carrick-Smith went over for the first of his brace in the 15th minute.
Will Robinson’s conversion of Carrick-Smith’s try, one of 11 successful kicks for the fly half in an impressive display of goalkicking, increased the Welsh lead to 24-3 and thereafter it was just a case of how many tries the Exiles would rack up.
In the end, they had to settle for ten, with replacement Richard Thorpe coming off the bench to cross twice.
For Welsh, it was the return to winning ways they wanted after the disappointment of Goldington Road last week.
They’ll make the return trip to Edinburgh and Raeburn Place next Saturday knowing that they’ll face a far stiffer test, before attention reverts back to the Championship and the visit of London Scottish to the Kassam Stadium.
The power and pace of Welsh’s Joe Ajuwa proved too much for Edinburgh Academical to handle, and while that would later manifest itself in the form of a superb solo try for the winger, it was the catalyst for the first of the Exiles’ ten tries.
With tacklers hanging off him, Ajuwa made ground with a typically robust carry. That created the space when Welsh went wide and Alan Awcock sent Lewis over.
The Accies responded immediately from the restart through an Alec Black penalty, but Robinson replied with a penalty of his own.
The home side’s second try came from a well-placed and weighted kick, deep into the Accies’ 22, which forced the visitors to concede a lineout.
Welsh weren’t about to let such a promising position pass them by and the catch and drive resulted in Mike Denbee touching down.
Welsh continued to keep the pressure on. Held up over the Edinburgh line, the resulting scrum became a penalty, which Ollie Frost took quickly.
The scrum half was stopped short, but on loan Exeter second row Carrick-Smith forced his way over.
Moments later Welsh secured the four try bonus point courtesy of an unstoppable run from Ajuwa, the winger going over and through several Edinburgh tacklers on his way to the tryline.
Robinson’s conversion gave Welsh a very healthy 31-3 lead, with only 18 minutes of the first half elapsed.
A sustained spell of pressure finally brought try number five. Ollie Stedman drove into the Accies’ 22, with support from captain Ben Pienaar, and quick ball saw Awock and Dante Mama link up before the centre showed good strength to get the ball down.
Edinburgh, though, would finish the half strongly. Turning down the chance for an easy three points, the away side got their reward when Jamie Farndale went over under the posts.
Welsh had managed to repel the initial catch and drive attempt, but with a penalty advantage being played, the Accies gave it to their backs and Iain Chisholm sent Farndale through a gap for a nicely worked try.
Black added the extras on the stroke of half-time but a poor pass and a knock on straight from the kick-off would put the visitors immediately on the back foot at the start of the second half.
Welsh would seize upon the opportunity with Carrick-Smith going over for his second close-range try.
It was not the start the Accies wanted, and it got worse when they lost prop Phil Cringle to a yellow card.
They would not escape without further damage to the scoreboard.
New signing Nathan Vella released Awcock and the full back’s delightful dummy, with a three-man overlap to his left, opened up the way to the tryline.
Both sides rang the changes in the final quarter, which disrupted the fluidity of the game, but pleasingly Welsh were still displaying an eagerness for more tries.
The Exiles pushed a penalty into the corner and forced their way over, with Thorpe the last to emerge from the pile of bodies to claim try number eight.
Seventeen minutes still remained and Welsh would cross twice more in that time. Josh Watkins – on loan from the Worcester Warriors Academy – chipped ahead and managed to retrieve his own kick.
That gave the Exiles an attacking platform inside the Accies’ 22 from which Thorpe claimed his second.
Fittingly the home side would round things off with try number ten from the last play of the game.
Some delightful footwork from Mama created the opportunity, and having stretched the away side’s defence, Ben West was able to coast over out wide.
Robinson maintained his 100 per cent goalkicking record by landing the touchline conversion.