Unbeated run brought to an end but Welsh remain at top of league.
A grey and cold afternoon awaited the players and supporters travelling to Stevenage for the seventh round of the London 3 North West campaign. With Club Captain Lloyd Davies sidelined by injury, Head Coach Cai Griffiths led the team for the second week in a row.
London Welsh started the game well, and one man up due to an early yellow card for Stevenage’s loosehead, took advantage of having the extra player. A break by Rhys Howells took play up to within 10 meters of the Stevenage line and phases across the field puts ball out to Christopher Lilly for the first score. Rhodri Dawes’ conversion went wide and Welsh were 5 points ahead with less than 10 minutes on the clock.
Rhys Howells added the second try five minutes later successfully chasing and gathering a chip ahead. Dawes’ conversion went over and increased the lead to 12 points.
Stevenage came close to scoring but with the cold weather not helping handling the final pass was knocked on. Welsh kept the ball alive and despite further pressure from the home team scrum half Iwan Bowen Rees found space to run up to the halfway line. A penalty to Stevenage gave them possession and a chance to send the ball back into the London Welsh half.
Wesley Moore opened the scoring for Stevenage at the end of the first quarter. The flanker received the ball midfield and ran through to score. Gareth Lewis added the extras.
Welsh restarted and soon took play deep into the Stevenage half. High tackles inside the 22 were penalised and Rhodri Dawes had the chance to add three more points but the kick went wide and the score remained at 7-12. Stevenage could have added a further try before half time but again a knock on just short of the line saw another missed opportunity. London Welsh finished the half in the ascendance with David Gabe driven over the line for his team’s third try. Rhodri Dawes’ conversion made the half time score 7-19.
Ten minutes of the second half passed before the first scoring chance. Jonathan Williams, on for Rhys Howells, found good distance with his penalty kick to touch and when the next penalty was awarded to Welsh it was within range of the posts. Dawes’ kick again went wide and although the visitors remained in Stevenage’s half they couldn’t create anything from the territory.
A try on the wing for Stevenage narrowed the gap to seven points and they were unlucky not to add the conversion as the ball bounced off the upright. Another try and conversion followed five minutes later for the home team to level the score at 19 points each. Just under twenty minutes remained on the clock.
Stevenage took the lead for the first time with 10 minutes remaining, Gareth Lewis putting a penalty over to go 22-19 ahead.
Welsh created three more chances in the final minutes. A David Gabe break made ground for the first of these but the second of two passes infield was dropped bringing the move to an end. A valiant Stevenage defence stopped a Welsh drive from a 5m lineout when the referee judged that the ball was held up short of the line and the game came to a close when another dropped pass ended an attacking move.
Stevenage deserved their hard fought win and move up to 5th in the league. London Welsh remain top of London 3 North West, two points clear of Streetonians.
Finchley visit Old Deer Park next Saturday. Kick off is at 2.30pm.