For 40 minutes London Welsh produced arguably their best rugby of the season, only for the Aviva Premiership to again dish out another harsh reminder of its unforgiving nature. It’s a lesson the Exiles are now tired of being taught.
Battling back from conceding two tries in as many minutes to Henry Purdy and Charlie Sharples, Welsh trailed 12-10 at the break with Ben Pienaar and the boot of Olly Barkley bringing the home side back in to contention.
It was the very least the Exiles deserved for a spirited first half showing – no signs of any mental baggage from their previous three heavy defeats.
The game swung the way of the Cherry and Whites in the second half – the scrum battle turning in the visitors’ favour was key to that. It wasn’t until the final ten minutes, however, that the scoreline took on altogether one-sided look. Echoes of Sale six days earlier.
The first of Mark Atkinson’s brace, together with the sinbinning of Taione Vea, proving the catalyst for the floodgates to open – four tries in the final ten minutes bearing an all too striking similarity with events at Sale and Bath. Painfully similar.
Welsh started brightly but 25 scoreless minutes would pass before the deadlock was broken – Barkley and James Hook (twice) both off target in that time. Unable to convert several promising positions in to points, the Exiles were caught with a sucker punch as the Cherry and Whites took a quick and broke down field with Purdy eventually going over. Hook would endure an in different evening with the boot.
Two minutes later Gloucester were in again. Nick Scott did well to keep the ball in play, but the beneficiary was Dan Robson and the scrum half broke away before releasing Sharples.
Welsh needed to respond, and they did. Able to build pressure from a scrum penalty which Barkley put in to the corner, the Exiles turned down an easy three points to again opt for the corner. It was a brave decision, but one that paid off handsomely as Pienaar was driven over. Barkley converted.
Tails up, the Exiles would finish the half strongly. Nic Reynolds’ break put the home side back in the business area and Welsh patience eventually yielded a penalty in front of the posts which Barkley despatched with the last kick of the half. Few could have imagined that it would be Welsh’s last contribution to the scoreboard.
The home side’s defence would be strenuously tested upon the restart – the Cherry and Whites keeping Welsh pinned in their own half and slowly turning the screw. Only some outstanding defence was typified by one thumping hit from Tom May which forced a knock on with Gloucester edging closer to the Welsh tryline.
The pressure had to tell eventually, though, and Billy Twelvetrees added a penalty. Taking over the kicking duties, Greig Laidlaw another penalty and the difference was again two scores.
Welsh went in search of a reply, but the game swung decisively in the away side’s favour when two quick-fire Gloucester penalties in the scrum saw Taione Vea yellow carded. Welsh wouldn’t see out the ten minutes unscathed – Jonny May’s break eventually leading to Atkinson bursting clear to score.
Cue the floodgates. Atkinson added his second with May also getting in on the act, before a penalty try rounded things off for the visitors with Dean Schofield in the sin bin.
A fourth comprehensive defeat for the Welsh, and while they can reflect on having contributed much to this game, ultimately it’s points that count.
It doesn’t get any easier with a trip to Harlequins next up on Saturday.
London Welsh scorers:
Tries: Pienaar; Cons: Barkley; Pens: Barkley.
Gloucester Rugby scorers:
Tries:Atkinson (2), Purdy, Sharples, May, Penalty Try; Cons: Laidlaw (4), Hook; Pens: Twelvetrees, Laidlaw.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Touch Judges: Paul Dix & Ross Campbell