Victory at Finchley extends lead at top of table.
Injuries and availability forced the changes up front for the visit to Finchley with seven of the pack, and one replacement, being recognised front row players.
A sizeable crowd of London Welsh supporters gathered at pitchside and in the Grade II Listed stand in the expectation of seeing their team edge closer to promotion. Naturally ears were tuned in for any updates coming through from Stevenage where the match against Datchworth could also affect the end of season placings.
Rhodri Dawes got the game underway and Andrew Black collected the return kick from Finchley to charge downfield to create an early chance but a pass to the wing went astray and the home team had possession again. Their first attacking opportunity came from a 5 metre scrum but the Welsh defence forced the player into touch.
London Welsh were dominant in the early attacks and when awarded a penalty in front of the posts they took the option of a scrum. Elis Staines passed to Rhodri Dawes who in turn fed the ball to Fred White for the winger to cross for the opening try but the elation of the score was tempered by the sight of White leaving the field with an ankle injury. The conversion went wide.
Finchley were determined not to let the visitors have it all their own way and launched attacking moves based around the pace of their wings. Welsh defended well and held them away from the line for the time being. Further Finchley pressure forced errors and it was one of these mistakes that gave them their first try. The backs attempted to play the ball upfield but a loose pass was picked up by Finchley’s outside centre who had a free run to score under the posts. The conversion was added and Finchley had a two point lead.
Good passes and their speedy right wing quickly put Finchley on the attack again, forcing London Welsh to concede a penalty in front of the posts. A short pass from the tap penalty put Finchley’s second row through for their second try and the simple conversion was added. Finchley continued to have the majority of the possession for the remainder of the half and went in 14-5 ahead, the first team this season to lead London Welsh at half time.
London Welsh started the second half knowing that they had to up their game to have a chance of victory. Several opportunities in the opening minutes went begging with final passes not quite going to hand but eventually Welsh managed to cross the line. A solid 5 metre scrum allowed the ball to be moved through the backs and when play moved back infield there was no stopping Andrew Black who powered over for the try. Rhys Tudur Davies added the conversion.
Welsh finally regained the lead thanks to a well worked catch and drive from a penalty lineout. A clean take by Alex Laybourne was driven forward by the pack and scrum half Elis Staines peeled off the back of the maul to add another five points. The conversion was missed but the league leaders were 17-14 up.
Finshley upped the pressure once again to try and retake the lead, moving the ball well across their centres and wings. A attacking scrum in the Welsh 22 gave them a good platform but David Gabe anticipated the pass from fly half to centre and intercepted to run almost the length of the field and score near the corner. Gabe’s try extended the lead to eight points and secured the bonus point.
The final try was claimed by Andrew Black. A five metre scrum was driven towards the line, Black controlling the ball at his feet until he could gather it to score. Finchley continued to play in their attacking style but were unable to add any further points.
Full time: Finchley 14 London Welsh 27.
The bonus point win, with Datchworth beating Stevenage but only picking up the four league points, puts London Welsh ten points clear at the top of London 3 North West. More importantly they are 15 points ahead of third place and a bonus point win over Old Merchant Taylors’ next Saturday should be enough to secure promotion. Kick off will be at 3pm.