Lyn Jones had asked his players to finish on a high and that’s exactly what they did, as London Welsh said goodbye to the Premiership with their first bonus-point win of the league season.
What the Exiles wouldn’t have given for such a five-point haul a few weeks ago to keep them in the survival hunt, but that was not to be.
Championship rugby awaits next season – the club’s fate already sealed – but last Saturday was an opportunity for both players and supporters alike to acknowledge each other’s unwavering and wholehearted efforts over the course of a whirlwind and challenging season.
Dan Caprice gave Welsh the perfect start. Released by Rob Lewis’ flat pass, the winger burst through the smallest of gaps before hitting the afterburners, rounding Ben Howard and touching down in the corner.
Ross added the extras before the winger was again terrorising Worcester with his pace. No finish in the corner this time, but a pull back off the ball by Neil Best on Welsh centre Seb Stegmann, as he tried to get up in support of Caprice, was spotted by the officials and Best despatched to the sin bin. The first of the afternoon’s five yellow cards.
The Exiles took immediate advantage. Ross pushed the resulting penalty into the corner and the home side’s pack found little resistance to drive over. Alfie To’oala the last man up with the ball. Again Ross added the extras and Welsh led 14-0 after just seven minutes.
The home side were looking very determined to indeed end on a winning note – a point exemplified by one huge hit by To’oala.
But Worcester were given a way back into the game when Daniel Browne saw yellow after a quick tap penalty by Jonny Arr. The Welsh flanker not retreating ten metres.
Worcester, though, couldn’t emulate what Welsh had done at the other end. The away side went for the catch and drive, but found the Welsh defence in determined mood and they were held up over the tryline. Greg Bateman the man putting his body on the line.
From the resulting five-metre scrum, Welsh forced the Warriors back and eventually got the penalty with away side holding on in the tackle, after great work by Rob Lewis.
A Ross penalty increased the home side’s lead and Browne returned to the fray with no damage done on the scoreboard in his absence.
But the home side generously gave their visitors another chance at playing against 14-men when second row Kirill Kulemin then saw yellow for a punch.
This time Worcester would take advantage of their numerical numbers to build up a head of steam, but some stout London Welsh defence in their own 22 forced the Warriors and Goode to settle for penalty.
Ross became Welsh’s third yellow card of the half – crossing paths with Kulemin as the big lock returned from his ten minutes in the bin. Goode couldn’t make Welsh pay further, though, as his penalty came back off the posts to leave the Exiles well in control at the break.
And the home side tightened its grip on proceedings just four minutes into the second half as the Welsh pack drove up to the Worcester line and Tom Arscott went over from close range.
The full back couldn’t add the extras in Ross’ absence, but the home side were almost out of sight and once again Ross returned with no harm done on the scoreboard. Indeed, Welsh’s three sinbinnings had yielded a solitary Goode penalty for Worcester.
Ross added his second penalty but from the restart came the game’s champagne moment, as Welsh ran the kick off back. The home side worked the ball wide to Nick Scott and the winger left three in his wake as he raced home from 75 metres for a stunning try.
It then became the Josh Drauniniu show. The former Welsh winger intercepting a Ross pass before to cross, before then bursting through to add a second moments later in a casual style all too familiar to London Welsh supporters.
Goode added both conversions and the home side still had work to do to see this one out, with their lead suddenly cut to 13 points.
Determined not throw the game away, Ross took a simple three points when the chance came along with Chris Jones having become yellow card recipient number five, meaning Jake Abbott’s late effort was little more than a consolation.
For Welsh, it was a nice way to sign off from the Aviva Premiership.
Tries: Caprice, To’oala, Arscott, Scott; Cons: Ross (2); Pens: Ross (3).
Tries: Drauniniu (2), Abbott; Cons: Goode (2); Pens: Goode.
London Welsh: Tom Arscott, Dan Caprice, Seb Stegmann, James Lewis, Nick Scott, Gordon Ross (C), Rob Lewis, Tom Bristow, Greg Bateman, Arthur Joly, Kirill Kulemin, Matt Corker, Daniel Browne, Lee Beach, Alfie To’oala.
Replacements: Joe Ajuwa for Caprice (35mins), Julio Cabello Farias for To’oala (h-t), Adam Brown for Kulemin (59mins), James Tideswell for Joly (60mins), Alex Davies for Rob Lewis (68mins), Mike Denbee for Beach (68mins), Billy Moss for Bristow (69mins), Dan George for Bateman (69mins).
Yellow cards: Browne (14mins), Kulemin (29mins), Ross (39mins).
Worcester Warriors: Chris Pennell, Josh Drauniniu, Andy Short, Alex Grove, Ben Howard, Andy Goode, Jonny Arr, Matt Mullan, Ed Shervington, Euan Murray, James Percival (C), Chris Jones, Neil Best, Sam Betty, Richard de Carpentier.
Replacements: Danny Gray for Short (65mins), Jake Abbott for Betty (65mins), Sean Schofield for Percival (66mins), Paul Hodgson for Arr (66mins), John Andress for Murray (66mins).
Replacements not used: Aleki Lutui, Rob O’Donnell, Max Stelling.
Yellow cards: Best (6mins), Jones (67mins).
Referee: Matthew Carley
Referee Assistants: Paul Dix & Stuart Terheege