London Welsh ran in six tries against Rotherham Titans at Old Deer Park as the British and Irish Cup holders took a stranglehold of Pool 2.
The Exiles followed up their bonus-point over win Munster ‘A’ in Cork with another maximum, in a game which turned on Ben Foley’s 41st minute red card for a tip tackle on Welsh’s James Lewis.
The visitors led 15-7 at the break thanks to tries from Ben Foley and Dan Thomas, with the home side replying through Koree Britton, but Foley’s dismissal swung the game in the Exiles’ favour and they took full advantage.
Lewis crossed twice with Ryan Glynn, Adam Kwasnicki and Seb Jewell also getting in on the act as the Exiles emerged comfortable winners to take control of Pool 2 after the opening two rounds of B&I Cup action.
With both sides having won their opening Pool 2 fixture – Welsh away to Munster ‘A’ and Titans against Doncaster Knights – something was going to have to give at Old Deer Park.
The visitors were on the board inside three minutes. Evans pushed a scrum penalty into the corner and after the Titans pack had rumbled on a bit Evans slipped the tackle of Joe Carlisle, and although brought down short Rotherham had numbers on the right and Charlie Foley sent Ben Foley over in the corner.
Titans had settled well; Jake Henry producing one powerful carry as the visitors turned defence into attack.
Evans added the first of his four penalties when the Exiles were penalised on the floor, with Welsh not firing in attack. After a few wasted opportunities, however, the Exiles finally turned field position into points following good work on the deck by Heath Stevens won a penalty and Carlisle found the corner.
For the opening 20 minutes Welsh had been unable to get much change from a well organised Titans defence, but having probed from side-to-side, it suddenly parted for Britton like the Red Sea, and the hooker didn’t need a second invitation to burst through and score. Carlisle converted.
Welsh nearly added a second within minutes. Countering from the restart, a good kick-chase forced Rotherham to concede an attacking lineout from which Britton was held up over the line.
Welsh had to settle for a five-metre scrum, but couldn’t turn the opportunity into points as Rotherham eventually won a scrum penalty and Evan cleared the danger.
The home side were immediately made to pay for not taking that chance. Welsh looked to have survived after Tom MacDonald had taken a quick tap and made for the Welsh tryline, only for the Exiles to get hands on the ball and win a penalty. Carlisle found touch, but when the lineout came back on the Rotherham side, Dan Thomas cut through a static Welsh defence to score. Evans converted.
Welsh immediately had the chance to respond, but having rumbled up to the Rotherham line were penalised for going over the top, leaving Titans to take a 15-7 lead into the break.
Head coach James Buckland responded during the interval with a double change in the front row – Ben Cooper and James Hallam joining the fray to address Welsh issues in the scrum.
The game, however, would change dramatically in the first minute after the restart as Ben Foley saw red for a tip tackle on James Lewis. Rotherham would have to play the remaining 39 minutes with just 14-men.
Welsh wasted little time in taking advantage. Carlisle found touch with the resulting penalty, and the home side laid siege until a nice offload from Stevens sent Lewis over.
Carlisle’s conversion brought the home side back to within a point, but a high tackle allowed Evans to reply with a penalty, and with the visitors coping well with their numerical disadvantage the Titans fly half added another three points after a good break from Will Thomas had taken Rotherham into the Welsh 22.
But from nothing, Carlisle engineered a way through, or round, Rotherham’s compact defence. His flat cross field kick found Nick Reynolds and the winger released Lewis in a race for the line with Matthew Dudman. The Titans scrum halves’ tap tackle felled the centre five metres short, but Lewis was able to get back to his feet and dive over before the Rotherham cover could arrive. Carlisle’s conversion levelled the scores at 21-21.
Welsh went for the jugular and three minutes later Chris Elder, making his 50th appearance for the club, broke the Titans line before feeding Aaron Carpenter to carry it on. The Canada international then sent Glynn over for his first try for London Welsh in his 33rd appearance.
Carlisle couldn’t convert, however, and when Evans despatched his fourth penalty in the 58th minute there was work still to be done by Welsh with just two points separating the sides.
Four minutes later effectively put the game to bed however. Glynn’s grubber kick to the corner forced Titans to concede an attacking lineout and Kwasnicki was driven over. Carlisle added the extras and the lead was up to nine points. But after the events at Clifton Lane earlier in the season no one in Welsh colours was taking anything for granted.
Indeed, Welsh needed some good work deep in their own 22 from Jesse Liston and a lineout steel from Barney Maddison to see off a late Rotherham rally, before the home side could finally celebrate victory when Carlisle’s flat pass released Lewis, and the centre put Jewell in for try number six.
Back-to-back bonus point cup wins for the Exiles then to take back into the Championship next Saturday when third placed Doncaster Knights are the visitors to Old Deer Park.
London Welsh scorers:
Tries: Lewis (2), Britton, Glynn, Kwasnicki, Jewell; Cons: Carlisle (5).
Rotherham Titans scorers:
Tries: Ben Foley, Dan Thomas; Cons: Evans; Pens: Evans (4).
Referee: Adam Leal
Assistant referees: Michael Patz & Simon Park