Aviva Premiership rugby will return to Kassam Stadium next season thanks to London Welsh’s 20-point aggregate win over promotion favourites Bristol
By Richard Grainger
LONDON WELSH bounced back to the top flight at the first attempt despite a brave Bristol fightback at the Memorial Stadium on Wednesday night.
Bristol, who finished eight points ahead of second-placed Welsh at the end of the regular season, took a 19-point deficit into their final game at the Mem. But soggy conditions and wayward place-kicking from ex-Wales International Nicky Robinson didn’t help their cause.
“We left a lot of points out there and had enough opportunities, but we have to be able to take those,” said Bristol DoR Andy Robinson after the 21-20 defeat (48-28 on aggregate). “It’s something we will look at going into next season. I thought it was an outstanding performance. The character we showed was excellent, but we were left to chase too much.”
Nicky Robinson, who was eventually replaced by Adrian Jarvis, was off-target with three kickable penalties and two conversions, one of which was from the touchline.
A fired-up Bristol dominated the first quarter but failed to put points on the board. Indeed, it was a drop-goal from Sky Sports Man of the Match Gordon Ross, on Welsh’s first sortie out of their own half, that stretched the aggregate gap to 22 points.
As Welsh quietened the crowd thanks to their organisation and discipline in defence, a delightfully weighted Robinson cross-kick found Andy Short on the left flank and he shrugged off two weak tackles to slither over in the corner.
Robinson failed to convert and Ross nudged the Exiles back into the lead as Bristol, whose scrum had started competitively, collapsed to concede a penalty.
On the stroke of half-time, Exiles scrum-half Chris Cook was sentenced to an extended interval break when he was adjudged to have knocked on deliberately to prevent Short collecting a pass for his second, but all that intense Bristol pressure could produce was a Robinson penalty to give Bristol an 8-6 interval lead.
Mitch Eadie roused the Bristol faithful when he touched down on the hosts’ first attack after the break. Robinson couldn’t add the extras nor a penalty from an Exiles scrum collapse and that transpired to be his last action of this season.
There was real belief when Adam Hughes finished off a fine break by Ben Mosses and Jarvis converted to bring Bristol within eight points with ten minutes to go. Game on.
Welsh hit back with two tries in two minutes to slam the door on Bristol’s Premiership aspirations. First, after a TMO referral, James Tideswell was adjudged to have touched down when an Exiles maul reached the Bristol try-line. Then silence descended when Seb Stegmann hacked on three times from his own 22 before collecting the ball and diving over.
Ross converted to put the Exiles 21-20 ahead and into the Premiership, and to conclude 92 years of Bristol rugby at the Memorial Stadium.
Welsh head coach Justin Burnell said: “Bristol are a good side and I feel for Andy Robinson. I don’t think they took us for granted, but if you don’t kick the points it’s disappointing.”
Bristol will have the summer to ponder how to better Worcester and an improving Leeds outfit for promotion next season.
Bristol: Wallace; Amesbury, Tovey, Mosses, Short; Robinson, Tipuna (capt); Traynor, Johnston, Cortes, Glynn, Townson, Koster, Mama, Eadie.
Replacements: Lawrence, Hall, Hobson, Skirving, Grindal, Jarvis, Hughes.
London Welsh: Awcock; Stegmann, May (capt), Jewell, Scott; Ross, Cook; Trevett, Morris, Edwards, Spencer, Corker, Lees, Kirwan, Thorpe.
Replacements: Vella, Bristow, Tideswell, West, Stedman, Lewis, Crane.