MATCH: London Welsh 29 v 33 Worcester
DATE: Sunday 7th November 2010
VENUE: Old Deer Park
Worcester edged a five-try thriller at Old Deer Park to keep ahead of the chasing pack at the top of the Championship and bring to an end to London Welsh’s 100 per cent home record.
Tries from Pat Sanderson and Miles Benjamin helped the Championship leaders establish a 17-12 half-time lead, with all of the home side’s points coming from the boot of fly half Aled Thomas.
A pulsating second half saw a stunning try from the league’s leading try scorer Josh Drauniniu edged Welsh ahead, but Marcel Garvey’s intercept score swung the game back in the Warriors’ favour.
Bruce Douglas’ yellow card allowed Thomas to nudge the Exiles to within two points, but the home side could make no further inroads despite their numerical advantage.
Penalties from Carlisle and Andy Goode extended the Worcester lead to eight, but Welsh ensured a dramatic finale when Michael Hills crossed. A second Goode penalty left Welsh needing a try to snatch victory, but the Warriors held out.
Earlier, Jon Mills had made an immediate impression on his return to the London Welsh starting line up, since fracturing his jaw at Plymouth on September 18, as Thomas’ kick off bounced straight into the arms of the London Welsh captain and good pressure resulted in the Exiles fly half opening the scoring with Worcester caught offside.
The league leaders response, though, was swift as Errie Claassens’s clearance only found Dale Rasmussen and Andy Williams’ short pass found Sanderson on a great line and he cut through the Welsh defence to saunter in under the posts.
Carlisle converted and then added a penalty after the Warriors were gifted good field position as Simon Whatling’s kick bounced dead and play was brought all the way back.
Immediately from the restart Thomas reduced the deficit to four, but it was the away side that were dominating possession and Williams nearly sneaked down the right hand touch line before being bundled into touch.
Carlisle’s attempt at a drop goal was short and wide before Welsh enjoyed their best spell of the match so far as Thomas pushed a penalty to within seven metres of Warriors line, only for Vili Ma’asi to knock on after Epi Taione had driven on.
Nick Runciman did well to tidy up a tricky grubber kick with Benjamin breathing down his neck, but the home side were slowly beginning to show more as an attacking force.
A great tackle by Thomas on Rasmussen forced the Warriors centre to hold on in the tackle and give away a penalty, and the Welsh fly half took the home side to within a point.
But when Thomas then knocked on at the other end Worcester were again gifted good field position and once again they duly punished the Exiles. Rasmussen made the initial break, sucking in Welsh defenders, and when play was spread across the field the away side had a huge overlap and Benjamin touched down in the corner. Carlisle added an excellent touchline conversion.
Thomas had the chance to make amends when the Worcester backs were caught offside, only to drag his kick to the left of the uprights.
Thomas’ testing up and under was matched by a great chance and Mills scragged Tom Arscott to win Welsh the put in. From the resulting scrum Worcester were caught offside, but again Thomas was off target.
Worcester were still looking dangerous with ball in hand from open play, but Welsh were finishing the half the stronger and turnover ball was seized upon by Taione who fed Thomas.
Claassens burst into the line and after his chip had forced Arscott into touch, Hudson Tonga’uiha was caught high by Sanderson in front of the posts and Thomas cut the gap to 17-12 at the break.
Carlisle had the chance to strike first blood for the visitors at the start of the second half, but he proved he was human when he pushed his kick to the left of the posts.
Drauniniu then showed exactly why he’s the league’s leading try scorer as Whatling’s miss pass put the England Sevens wing in space, albeit with much still to do, and he brilliantly cut inside twice before cantering round under the posts. Thomas converted and Welsh led, but only for four minutes.
With the Exiles now oozing confidence, Whatling went for a repeat miss pass, only this time for Garvey to intercept and race clear. Carlisle added the extra two points and Worcester led again, this time by five.
It was now end-to-end action. Taione burst through a gap and up to the Worcester 22 and although the move broke down, Worcester prop Douglas saw yellow for lazy running. Thomas stroked over his fifth penalty and with the visitors down to 14-men the Exiles had a glorious chance to inflict further damage on the scoreboard.
But frustratingly for the home side, Worcester drew on all of their experience to see out the remainder of Douglas’ sinbinning without too many further alarms.
Indeed, Sanderson’s break and excellent kick from the back of a scrum on his own 22 took play into the Welsh 22 and eventually led to Carlisle slotting over a penalty, moments before Douglas returned to the fray.
And when Carlisle was replaced by Andy Goode, the former England fly half drilled his first penalty attempt straight between the posts.
Worcester had controlled the game since the sinbinning of Douglas, and now seemed poised to close it out, but Welsh chose that moment to suddenly breathe new life into it.
Taione and Drauniniu both made ground before play was spread cross the width of the field and Whatling cut inside twice and fed Hills to cross. Thomas converted and Welsh were back to within a point in what was turning into a cracking Championship clash.
Goode immediately replied for the Warriors, though, and the league leaders went in search of the bonus-point try, and only some fantastic last ditch tackling twice denied Garvey his second try.
London Welsh scorers:
Tries: Josh Drauniniu, Hills; Cons: Thomas (2); Pens: Thomas (5).
Tries: Sanderson, Benjamin, Garvey; Cons: Carlisle (3); Pens: Carlisle (2), Goode (2).
London Welsh: Errie Claassens, Liam Gibson, Hudson Tonga’uiha, Simon Whatling, Josh Drauniniu, Aled Thomas, Nick Runciman, Shawn Pittman, Vili Ma’asi, Lorne Ward,
Martin Purdy, Matt Corker, Jon Mills ©, Michael Hills, Epi Taione.
Replacements: Max Lahiff for Ward (56min), Paul Sampson for Gibson (57min), Dominic Shabbo for Whatling (68min), Ben Russell for Taione (73min), Marc Breeze for Ma’asi (77min).
Replacements not used: Mike Powell, Rob Lewis.
Worcester: Tom Arscott, Marcel Garvey, Alex Crockett, Dale Rasmussen, Miles Benjamin, Joe Carlisle, Andy Williams, Callum Black, Ed Shervington, Bruce Douglas, Graham Kitchener, Craig Gillies, Neil Best, Pat Sanderson, Kai Horstmann ©.
Replacements: Andy Goode for Carlisle (62min), Adam Balding for Sanderson (62min), Greg Rawlinson for Kitchener (62min), Aleki Lutui for Shervington (62min), Tevita Taumoepeau for Douglas (62min).
Replacements not used: Oli Frost, Andy Short.
Yellow card: Bruce Douglas (52min).
Officials: Ref –Andrew Small; TJ’s Richard Kelly & Richard Parker Sedgemore.