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London Welsh 16, Bath 9
NICK Scott's last-minute interception try gave London Welsh an incredible victory at the Kassam Stadium yesterday.
Just when it looked like the Exiles had earned a battling draw, former Bath wing Scott snaffled a long pass from the visitors’ World Cup-winning New Zealand fly half Stephen Donald and gave them victory.
Welsh had only levelled 90 seconds previously with a penalty from replacement fly half Gordon Ross, but Bath clearly did not fancy a draw against the Premiership's newest club.
Their gamble backfired spectacularly as no sooner had Ross converted Scott's try then referee Andrew Small blew his final whistle.
Bath will feel they had chances to win an enthralling match, but were frequently outmuscled by a relentless Welsh pack, who turned over three of their scrums with loose-head prop Franck Montanella leading the way.
Victory lifted the Exiles eight points clear of the relegation zone and underlined that they are not the pushovers many expected them to be before the season started.
Having announced their team on Friday, Welsh later released a revised line-up featuring six changes.
Centres Seb Jewell and Hudson Tonga’uiha, scrum half Tyson Keats, prop Franck Montanella, lock Kirill Kulemin and flanker Mike Denbee all came into the side.
This meant Gavin Henson did in fact start at fly half and not at inside centre.
Officially these changes were made following a final training session, but the big reshuffle prompted suggestions the Exiles were trying to play mind games.
England international Matt Banahan returned at outside centre for Bath.
Donald was keen to hoist a few early up and unders, but missed his first penalty attempt as did opposite number Henson from longer range.
Bath threatened the opening try from close range on nine minutes, but full back Nick Abendanon and flanker Stuart Hooper were stopped just short.
Welsh’s rearguard was further rewarded when Henson slotted a penalty to put them ahead.
Some good forward play from a lineout allowed Henson a second successful kick at goal and 6-0 on 17 minutes.
Welsh laid down a marker by turning over a Bath scrum on halfway and looked to have the edge up front.
The visitors had more penetration in the backs, however, and Donald reduced the arrears with a 28th-minute penalty.
Keats was getting through some great work in defence, impressing with one sliding retrieval under pressure.
Bath thought they had scored from the final play of the half when England lock Dave Attwood forced his way through, but Small adjudged him held up.
Welsh won Bath’s scrum ball in the first set play of the second half, but were soon defending.
Henson was penalised as he challenged Abendanon for a high ball, but no further action was taken.
An epic scrum saw Welsh drive Bath back as the visitors tried to attack off their own ball on 50 minutes, earning a penalty in the process.
Two minutes later, Bath were awarded a scrum penalty and Donald made it 6-6.
The Exiles were conceding too many penalties for their coaches’ liking and one allowed Donald to kick Bath 9-6 ahead on 64 minutes.
Henson had been nursing a back injury all week and was replaced by Ross just after the hour mark.
Ross’s first action saw a penalty attempt come up disappointingly short on 73 minutes.
But he redeemed himself with the equalising penalty on 78 minutes.
And then came the final flourish.
Bath gambled for victory and Donald threw a long pass, which Scott intercepted and ran in from his own half, diving over spectacularly.
Ross converted with the final kick.
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