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RUGBY UNION: Welsh overcome their toughest test at Titans
11:00am Monday 7th October 2013 in Sport
Justin Burnell’s prediction that Rotherham would be London Welsh’s toughest test so far proved only too accurate, but a powerful final quarter was enough to see the Exiles go top of the table with a 32-27 win.
Putting their 100 per cent records on the line Welsh and the Titans delivered every bit and more, with the Exiles forced to dig deep to avoid slipping to a first defeat of the season.
But in the end Welsh’s cooler, wiser heads prevailed, and a stubborn refusal to be beaten.
Their line was breached three times in the first 11 minutes, via Curtis Wilson, Juan Pablo Socino and Alistair Birch, and Welsh drew on their experience to live with the rampant hosts.
Lesser sides would have wilted in the face of such an onslaught, but on Saturday at Clifton Road it simply created the parameters for Welsh to exhibit their will to win.
Welsh wrestled back some control, with Gordon Ross landing a couple of crucial penalties to close the gap to 20-16 at half-time.
The fly half brought the Exiles to within a point after Colin Quigley was yellow-carded – the prop paying the price for the away side’s dominance in the scrum – but it was the 14 men of Rotherham who struck next through Michael Keating’s try.
Trailing 27-19, Welsh produced a commanding final quarter display, triggered by Tom May’s interception score.
Alex Davies’s long-range penalty edged Welsh ahead for the first time in the 65th minute, and the scrum half added a second to seal the win and ensure Welsh sit proudly at the top of the table going into the British & Irish Cup.
Against a Rotherham side setting the pace at the top after three rounds, Welsh were aware of the need to keep things tight early on.
Wilson bursting clear to touch down in the second minute was hardly in keeping with that, after James Broadley had collected Charles Mulchrone’s up and under. Three minutes later the home side were in again, Socino benefiting from a loose London Welsh pass to race half the length of the field. The centre converted and the Titans led 12-0.
The Exiles’ response was immediate, as the pack drove their way over after Ross had pushed a penalty into the corner. It was ex-Titan Carl Kirwan who claimed the try. Ross converted.
But that did little to put Rotherham off their stride and Welsh knew they were in for a tough afternoon when Broadley broke a tackle and fed Birch to go over in the corner and the home side led 17-7.
Ross clawed back three points, but Socino cancelled out that strike and the home side should have been in for try number four. Breaking down field, the ball passed smartly between several pairs of hands before Tom Cruse was hauled down just short. Ross landed two more penalties off the back of Welsh’s forward power and for all of Rotherham’s attacking enterprise the home side led by just four at the break.
Ross kicked the Exiles to within a single point within three minutes of the restart, a penalty accompanied by the sight of Quigley seeing yellow.
That should have been the opportunity for the away side to stamp their authority – instead it brought the best out of the Titans.
Welsh were stunned when Socino’s break set up Keating to cross in the corner and the centre’s conversion left the Exiles suddenly eight points adrift.
For 17 scoreless minutes the game hung in the balance before turning decisively in Welsh’s favour, as Rotherham’s ambition brought about their own downfall when the decision to take a quick tap penalty saw James Lewis intercept and he fed May to race clear.
Ross added the extras and with the momentum behind them the Exiles edged ahead two minutes later for the first time in the game when Davies bisected the posts from halfway. Davies then slotted his second penalty to give Welsh a five-point cushion.
London Welsh: Jewell, Stegmann, J Lewis, May, Scott, Ross, R Lewis (Davies 56), Trevett (Hepburn 52), Titterrell (Davis 73), Edwards (Tideswell 52), Corker, Browne, Lees (Denbee 57), Kirwan, Stedman (Pienaar 45).
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