1st XV victory thanks to first half flurry of tries.
After the laying of a wreath by London Welsh captain Christopher Lilly, a bugler from The Salvation Army played The Last Post to signal the start of a minute’s silence to commemorate next Sunday’s Armistice Day and to pay respect to the fallen and injured from all conflicts. Referee George Smith signalled the end of the period of reflection and the players broke from the line to take their positions ready for kick off.
Finchley started the game and soon regained possession when Welsh knocked-on. A penalty was awarded to them for a high tackle but they filed to make much ground and, when Welsh get the ball, play moves down for a defensive line out on Finchley’s 22m line. A great steal by the Welsh pack set up several further phases and when the ball reached David Gabe the fly half ran through the remaining defenders to score under the posts. A conversion by Rhodri Dawes put the home team 7-0 ahead with just five minutes on the clock.
Welsh extended their lead a few minutes later. Rhys Howells caught a Finchley kick and passes to David Gabe and then on to Fred White gave the wing the second try of the game. The conversion went wide of the posts.
Both teams were looking to play an expansive game and Finchley showed ambition and good handling throughout. A yellow card for their lock towards the end of the first quarter gave Welsh a one man advantage but they struggled to take advantage of it and despite phases of play inside Finchley’s 22 the pack couldn’t get close enough to the try line. London Welsh upped their pace again and, shortly before the end of the yellow card period, got within range of the line and were awarded a penalty. Christopher Lilly opted for the scrum and from the reset the ball was moved across field for Fred White to score his second try. The conversion again went wide but Welsh had a 22-0 lead, and a bonus point, with ten minutes of the half remaining.
Welsh attacked again immediately from the restart and prop Michael Griffiths was held up over the line. Tyron Pelasio took the ball from the back of the 5m scrum and when he was stopped short Tomas Baldwin was on hand to finish the move. Max Morgan added the final try of the half, and the sixth of the game, thanks to a long pass out to him on the wing. Neither of these tries were converted and at half time London Welsh were 32-0 in front.
Finchley continued to play an attacking and positive game and were rewarded early in the second half with their first points. Sustained pressure on the Welsh defence allowed space for their full back, Ben Sarif, to break through and when not held from the tackle he was able to scramble forward for a try. Robert Buckley added the extras.
Welsh errors gave Finchley further opportunities but it was another quarter of any hour before either team could score again. Andew May, only moments after taking the field to replace Ben Cullen, collected a pass from Fred White to finish a break down field. With the conversion again going astray the home side were 37-7 up.
With ten minutes remaining Finchley scored again for the last points of the game. A period of possession in London Welsh’s 22, combined with a series of penalties, gave them space for a long kick across field to the wing. David Tuft gathered for the try.
Full time: London Welsh 37 Finchley 12
London Welsh Brecon Gin Man of the Match: Rhys Howells.
Our thanks once again to Evan and Ben for their excellent support as Assistant Referees.