Twentieth win of the season completes London 3 North West campaign
Expectations were high ahead of this top of table clash and the game more than matched its billing. A full house for the pre-match lunch, our annual ex-players lunch and two coach loads of supporters from Datchworth created an incredible atmosphere and the crowd of almost 1,000 was larger than for any game played in the National 1 and National 2 leagues that day. London Welsh were unbeaten at home and Datchworth had a 100% success rate on the road and neither team were going to cede their record easily.
Datchworth got the game underway and started hard, battering the Welsh defence from the off. The visitors were awarded the first penalty and chose to kick to the corner to launch another attack. The ball went loose and Elis Staines gathered only to be stopped by a high tackle, Welsh took the opportunity to clear upfield with a long penalty kick to touch from Lloyd Davies.
London Welsh were unable to make anything from their first visit to the opposition’s half but the game was being played at a frantic pace and soon it was Datchworth with a chance to score points. Ten minutes were on the clock when Welsh were penalised on the edge of their 22 but Datchworth’s kick at goal drifted wide.
Twenty five minutes elapsed before the first points of the game. From a penalty lineout David Gabe and Christopher Lillyboth made ground only for Datchworth to get possession and clear. Welsh gathered the ball again and great hands down the line led to a final pass from Tom May that put Max Morgan through in the corner. The conversion went wide.
The pace and physicality of the game kept increasing with neither team giving an inch. A crossfield kick by David Gabe was taken by Gruffydd Williams but the pass to Tom May went forward and brought the move to an end. Tyron Pelasio, playing his last game for London Welsh before returning to New Zealand, went on a charge and the rest of the pack were close behind to take on further phases of play. Tomas Baldwin was driven towards the line but was held up short and Datchworth won the scrum to bring the attack to an end.
The half time score was just 5-0 but those watching had witnessed the best 40 minutes of the season.
The second half started in the same style that the first finished. Turnovers, fast pace and neither team shying from contact had the crowd enthralled and in the opening minutes Datchworth took the lead for the first time. Play moved into the Welsh 22 and second row Mark Holgate crashed through the defence to score a try. Sam Brunton added the extras and the visitors were 7-5 ahead.
London Welsh countered almost immediately and a scrum little more than five metres out gave the platform to launch an attack on Datchworth’s line.The ball was moved along the line from Elis Staines to Lloyd Davies and then the centres each had a run. Christopher Lilly made the initial yards and David Gabe completed the move for his 19th league try of the season and setting a new club record. The conversion went wide and Welsh had a 10-7 lead.
A London Welsh lineout on the 22 allowed the pack to drive towards the try line but once again Datchworth held them out. Play swung between each half of the pitch with excellent attacks cancelled out by even better defence.
Welsh attacked again in the closing minutes only for Datchworth to win another penalty to push the game upfield. The final chance fell to Man of the Match Tyron Pelasio who made a 60 metre run and when stopped short of the line Elis Staines booted the ball in to touch for a hard-fought win. The two teams will meet again next season in London 2 North West.
Penderyn Distilleries Man of the Match: Tyron Pelasio
Match Sponsor: Kingswood Associates
Next Saturday London Welsh play Finsbury Park in the Final of the Middlesex Bowl. The match is being played at Old Deer Park and kick off is at 3pm.