London Welsh 14, Northampton 43

London Welsh put in a battling display against the Aviva Premiership’s leading side at Oxford’s Kassam Stadium yesterday, but still suffered a heavy defeat, writes Simon Williams.

The sin-binning of prop Ricky Reeves shortly before half-time was a key turning point as Northampton Saints scored 21 points when Welsh were down to 14 men.

The hosts never recovered, but can take some heart from their efforts, which saw them score tries through Taione Vea and Nic Reynolds.

Welsh were behind as early as the fifth minute – and it was a case of déjà vu from last week game’s against Leicester Tigers.

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Then, they conceded three tries from driving mauls after giving away penalties and it was through this route that Saints took an early lead.

Fly half Stephen Myler put a penalty into touch and flanker Callum Clark went over following the resulting driving maul.

Myler missed the conversion and four minutes later failed to land a highly-kickable penalty attempt, hitting the right post.

Welsh came back strongly and dominated possession for the remainder of the first quarter.

Seb Stegmann made two fine breaks, but the home side were unable to transform possession into points, with flanker Peter Browne being forced into touch just short of the try line.

It was Saints who, crucially, got the next score.

Although this time the Welsh defence managed to hold up the driving maul, following a penalty to touch, the ball was passed down the line for Myler to score and add the extras.

At 12-0 down, Welsh were in touch, but then shot themselves in the foot.

Reeves was sinbinned for going round the side of the ruck and kicking the ball away.

With their opponents down to 14 men, Saints took full advantage.

Following a driving maul against a seven-man pack, Samu Manoa went over for the try, converted by Myler to make it 19-0 at half-time.

Saints then struck quickly early in the second period, winger Jamie Elliott finishing off a passing move, Myler again adding the conversion.

There was still time for Saints to strike before Welsh regained their full complement of 15, when full back Ben Foden slipped through a couple of missed tackles. Myler’s conversion made it 33-0.

With 15 men, Welsh were competitive once again and got their first score just four minutes later.

After a penalty, and catch and drive at the lineout, the ball was recycled and prop Taione Vea went over. Gordon Ross added the conversion.

However, Saints quickly resumed the initiative and following a passing move, winger James Wilson was just able to squeeze in the corner. Myler was on target once more.

Despite going down to 14 men, when Sam Dickinson was sin-binned for going over the top in a ruck, Saints extended their lead when flanker Ben Nutley scored a try to put the visitors 43-7 ahead.

But it was the hosts who signed off on a high.

The Exiles continued to press for a consolation score and gave the home supporters something to cheer when centre Nic Reynolds touched down.

Will Robinson added the conversion, but while Welsh ended strongly, they were well beaten.

London Welsh: Jewell (Awcock 74), Stegmann, Reynolds,  May, Scott, Ross (Robinson 74), Rowley (R Lewis 59), Reeves (Trevett 47), Vella (Morris 62), Vea (Cooper 70), Schofield (Corker 69), Down, P Browne, Kirwan (Pienaar 64), McCaffrey.
Northampton Saints: Foden, Elliot, Stephenson, Burrell (Waldouck 54), Wilson, Myler (Pisi 61), Dickson (Fotuali’I 69), A Waller (E Waller 46), Haywood (McMillan 67), Ma’afu (Denman 46), Manoa (Dickinson 56), Day (Harrison 54), Clark, Nutley, Dowson.
Attendance: 4,357.

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