9:30am Thursday 29th May 2014
By Damian Dolan
London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell insists there is no room for complacency in their fight for a swift Premiership return.
Welsh, relegated from the top flight last season, take a 19-point lead into the second leg of their Championship final at Bristol after tries from Nathan Trevett, Nick Scott and Carl Kirwan secured a 27-8 first leg victory at the Kassam stadium on Wednesday.
“We will be going there with the mind-set that we have to win the game,” said Burnell ahead of next week’s decider on June 4.
“We’ve still got a long way to go – there’s another leg to play. We know how good Bristol are – they’re capable of scoring points.
“Is 19 points enough? I’d rather be 19 points up than 19 points down.”
He added: “We don’t roll over. We were 13 points down against Leeds in the semi-final and everyone wrote us off.
“One thing we have got is spirit.”
No one in the London Welsh camp will be taking anything for granted, particularly if Bristol start as they did at the Kassam Stadium.
Nicky Robinson’s kick off may have drifted out on the full but Welsh couldn’t take advantage with Ross failing to find touch after the home side’s pack imposed its dominance at the scrum.
But Welsh soon found themselves defending after the concession of a couple of cheap penalties, and they had no answer to Bristol’s catch and drive. Marco Mama the try scorer.
The rain which had fallen on Oxford throughout the day, and only got heavier as the night wore on, would dictate that territory was king with both sides putting plenty of boot to ball.
It made for cagey stuff, before Welsh struck. When Bristol kicked out on the full it gifted the Exiles an attacking lineout and Nathan Trevett was driven over.
Ross’s conversion edged the home side in front, and barely three minutes later he was adding a second after a scintillating Welsh try.
Turning Bristol over at the breakdown, Welsh attacked with Nathan Morris suddenly bursting clear.
Rather than looking for contact, however, the hooker showed great awareness and composure to delay his pass to perfection for the fast arriving Nick Scott, and the Welsh winger left two Bristol tacklers in his wake before touching down.
Behind to Mama’s try after just four minutes, the home side now led 14-5.
Bristol’s cause wasn’t helped by the loss of the influential Ryan Jones to an ankle injury, although Welsh themselves had already seen Seb Stegmann forced off with a back spasm.
Ross completed a good half for the Exiles by adding a penalty on the stroke of half time to see the Exiles take a 12-point lead into the break.
They needed just four minutes of the second half to increase that margin. Scott’s kick ahead forced Bristol to concede a five metre scrum, from which the away side were penalised.
Welsh opted to push the ball into the corner and it paid dividends as Carl Kirwan forced his way over. Ross converted and Welsh were in dreamland.
The game, and indeed the final, seemed like it might be theirs for the taking. Perhaps sensing that, both sides became cagey with the boot once again dominating.
Bristol cranked up their game, working their way into the Welsh 22, but some equally huge defence kept the visitors out.
Welsh looked in for a fourth try when Seb Jewell danced through a couple of tackles, but Scott couldn’t take the final pass.
Another try then and Welsh would have been firmly in the driving seat, if they weren’t already.
Welsh seemed in again when Richard Thorpe picked up from a scum and combined with Ross, Jewell and Scott.
Bristol kept the home side out but at a cost with Nick Koster seeing yellow, and Ross took the easy three points on offer.
The home side, though, would struggle to press home their one man advantage and instead Adrian Jarvis pulled three points back for Bristol two minutes from time.
It wasn’t enough, however, to take the gloss off a fine London Welsh display which has earned them a 19-point advantage going into next week’s second leg.
Points difference aside, though, it is still only half-time.
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