Welsh must find the answers in Oxford
London Welsh may take a 16-point lead into the second leg of the Championship final, but the Exiles must deliver a performance at the Kassam Stadium if they are to be crowned champions, according to head coach Lyn Jones.
Welsh came out on top in last week’s first leg at Mennaye Field 37-21, despite Grant Pointer’s try giving the home side the perfect start.
But the Exiles responded with 23 unanswered points, with wingers Joe Ajuwa and Nick Scott crossing.
A penalty try awarded to the Pirates two minutes before half-time closed the gap to 23-14 at the break, only for the Exiles to strike twice in the space of a minute through Hudson Tonga’uiha and James Lewis.
Back row Phil Burgess’ late try keeps the destination of the Championship title very much in the balance for tonight’s game.
It was the Pirates’ first home defeat since October and Jones is expecting a backlash from the visitors at the Kassam Stadium.
“They’ll be hurt from last week,” said Jones.
"They’re a proud bunch and they’ll be keen to make up for a clinical performance against them.
“We’ll be ready for that and we appreciate what we’re going to have to deliver and improve on from last week’s performance to totally nullify any sort of Pirates threat.”
Despite Welsh taking a 16-point lead into tonight’s 2nd Leg, the destination of the Championship title is far from decided.
The two sides’ respective semi-finals are proof enough of that.
Bristol gave the Pirates a run for they money as they looked to overturned a 21-point deficit, while the Exiles at one stage led Bedford by 19-points on aggregate, only to scrap home by just three.
“Tonight is a one-off; it’s about turning up and delivering. Anything can happen,” added Jones.
“Things went well for us last week, but you never know, the ball can bounce the other way, interception tries etc and suddenly we’re under pressure. We’ve got to deliver a fast, physical, accurate game.
“We know there’s better to come from the Pirates because they’ve been one of the leading sides in the Championship for several years.
“We have a slender lead, which we’re not even talking about.
We’re focusing on our performance and making sure that we can match what we did last week – that’s what quality teams can do. They can deliver from one week to the next.
“If we have any ambition to become a Premiership side we have to behave like one, and that’s the top intensity that Premiership side can do.
“Those are the challenges we’re faced with when we take on the Pirates.”
If Welsh can hold on, for Jones it will be just reward for those who’ve worked hard behind the scenes to put the club back on the map.
“There’s been a lot of effort from Kelvin Bryon and certain individuals over the years to drag London Welsh up from oblivion to where we are now at the moment, with an opportunity to be the champions of the Championship. And hopefully to move forward from there,” he said.
It’s been an eventful week for London Welsh, both on and off the pitch, but with the anticipation building towards night’s game, Jones is looking forward to a real spectacle.
“People like to come to occasions and Wednesday night at the Kassam Stadium is going to be an occasion,” he added.
“There’ll be a lot of tension and we’re going to be in for a cracking game. There’s been a lot of interest from a lot of different quarters in this fixture.
“People are intrigued to find out what the Kassam Stadium is all about and will Premiership rugby really work here. There’s plenty of questions, we’ll look for the answers.”