London Welsh opened the new Championship season with a 26-13 victory over title favourites Leeds Carnegie at Headingley.
Five years ago, the Exiles stunned Leeds on the opening weekend of the National League One season with a 16-10 victory, and they repeated the trick on Sunday.
Tries from wing Liam Gibson and centre Simon Whatling, in addition to 16 points from former Leeds fly half Gordon Ross, helped the Exiles into a 26-6 lead.
Ryan Burrows charged over five minutes from time to give the home side faint hope, which was further increased when Welsh lost replacement Adam Brown to a yellow card.
Leeds finished strongly but 14-man Welsh held out to ensure a first competitive win for new head coach Lyn Jones and the right result for captain Jon Mills on his 100th league appearance for the club.
Indeed, Mills was given an appreciative round of applause as he led out a Welsh side in confident mood after their pre-season friendly win at Gloucester.
Welsh settled quickly thanks to Gordon Ross’ second minute penalty and the former Scotland number ten doubled the lead three minutes later.
Leeds number ten Joe Ford spurned the chance to get the home side on the board following a high tackle by Rob Lewis on Steve McColl.
Welsh threatened when full back Edd Thrower countered from Ollie Richards’ kick, but Whatling’s grubber was just too strong for the chasing Will Hurrell, and Curtis Wilson got back to concede a five-metre scrum.
Welsh pressure brought a penalty but good defence kept the visitors at bay, and when play switched to the other end, Ford got Leeds on the board when the Exiles were penalised at the breakdown.
Wilson was looking a danger every time Leeds got the ball out to the left wing, but they spurned the chance to level the scores when the ball shot out of the back of the Welsh scrum and Ross was forced to go to ground and was penalised within range of the posts.
Leeds opted for a quick tap, but fortune didn’t favour the brave on this occasion as the home side knocked on.
Pinning Leeds in their own 22, Welsh pressure forced a loose kick that Hurrell snapped up. The wing fed Thrower and his break took Welsh to within metres of the Leeds line, and Gibson was on hand to accept the offload and touch down for the Exiles first Championship try of the season. Ross converted.
Welsh might have added a second in injury time, as Whatling broke out from the restart, but his pass to Paul Mackey was deemed forward.
Ross and Ford traded penalties at the start of the second half, and the Welsh fly half extended the lead to 19-6 when the home side were penalised for going in at the side in front of their own posts.
The game’s defining moment arrived at the end of the third quarter. Thrower made the initial hard yards, taking play into the Leeds half.
Ross spread the play and replacement prop Billy Moss took a fizzing pass from the fly half and it suddenly opened up in front of him.
Moss was brought to ground in the Leeds 22, but Welsh recycled quickly and Whatling broke through three tackles to touch down. Ross converted and Welsh led by 20.
Had Whatling added a drop goal attempt three minutes later, the Exiles would surely have been home and dry, but the home side were given hope when number eight Ryan Burrows burst out of his own 22, slipped a couple of tackles and touched down with four minutes to go. Ford converted and the home side had hope.
With their tails up, a Ford penalty took Leeds into the corner and Leeds were given further fillet when Brown saw yellow.
Leeds continued to pound away at the Welsh tryline, but the Exiles held firm and when Iain Thornley’s pass went straight into the crowd, Welsh could finally celebrate a well deserved victory.
Tries: Burrows; Cons: Ford; Pens: Ford (2).
Tries: Gibson, Whatling; Cons: Ross (2); Pens: Ross (4).
Leeds Carnegie: Steve McColl, Lee Blackett, Ollie Richards, Scott Barrow, Curtis Wilson, Joe Ford, Craig Hampson, Gareth Denman, Andy Titterrell ©, David Young, Tom Denton, Sean Hohneck, Jon Pendlebury, Jacob Rowan, Ryan Burrows.
Replacements: Iain Thornley for Richards (49mins), Richard Beck for Pendlebury (49mins), Phil Nilsen for Titterrell (53mins), Phil Swainston for Young (55mins), Dan Hemingway for Denton (55mins), Joe Barker for Barrow (65mins), Dan White for Hampson (69mins).
London Welsh: Edd Thrower, Will Hurrell, Paul Mackey, Simon Whatling, Liam Gibson, Gordon Ross, Rob Lewis, James Tideswell, Dan George, Greg Bateman, Gary Johnson, Matt Corker, Jon Mills ©, Mike Denbee, Ed Jackson.
Replacements: Vili Ma’asi for George (58mins), Billy Moss for Bateman (58mins), Jack Winter-Moates for Rob Lewis (65mins), Adam Brown for Corker (69mins), Lee Beach for Mills (69mins), James Lewis for Whatling (73mins).
Replacements not used: Alex Davies
Yellow card: Brown: (76mins)
Referee: Darren Gamage; Touch Judges: Andrew Jackson & Martin Buck
Attendance: 2,343Like Rugby World? Subscribe to the magazine for the latest comprehensive content.