London Welsh made it back-to-back bonus point wins over Edinburgh Academical with a comfortable victory at Raeburn Place.
The atrocious conditions that greeted the Exiles upon their arrival in Edinburgh ensured there would be no repeat of their ten try demolition of the Accies at Old Deer Park seven days earlier, but the five tries they did manage were enough to keep Justin Burnell’s side alive in Pool 2 thanks to London Scottish’s victory over Pontypridd at the Athletic Ground.
Keeping faith with the majority of the team that inflicted last weekend’s 73-10 scoreline on the Accies, Burnell’s side had to combat the elements as much as the opposition in the first half, with Welsh given the task of playing into a fierce wind and driving rain for the opening 40.
Ben Pienaar led the side out with two of Gordon Ross’ nephews (Ben and Zak) as mascots.
Accies kicked off with wind and rain advantage deep to the Exiles’ goal-line but a long series of excellent driving phases with Joe Ajuwa, Mike Denbee and Ollie Stedman, in particular to the fore, took play up to the Accies’ 10-metre line.
This continued to be the pattern for the rest of the half with the quality of the handling and control of forwards, and backs alike, exceptional in the awful conditions.
Peter Browne, on his welcome return after injury, stole several lineout balls before being replaced by Will Carrick-Smith just before half-time with a cut eye.
The penalty count against the Accies was mounting, but Welsh no option but to launch quick taps against the powerful wind.
Welsh, though, would still dominate possession and territory with their scrum on top. Finding a way through a spirited Accies defence, clearly determined not to suffer a fate similar to the one forced upon it at Old Deer Park, was a different matter however.
The Exiles would meet with some stiff resistance until they finally broke the deadlock. After knock ons had spoilt some promising attacking platforms for the Exiles, Welsh disrupted an Accies scrum and Rob Lewis dispossessed Callum Reid and sent Stedman over.
Will Robinson kept up his impressive form with the boot against the Scottish side by adding the extremely difficult conversion.
A lineout on the Welsh 22 offered a good attacking platform for the home side, but the Exiles defence was good. However, the away side were then indebted to an excellent tackle from James Tincknell to keep the Accies out, after Welsh were penalised and the home side took play up to the Exiles’ 22.
Tincknell’s intervention ensured Stedman’s converted score was all that separated the sides at the end of a first half played in testing conditions.
With the wind and rain now at Welsh backs, the away side would make that dominance tell in the second half. They needed just five minutes to make their second breakthrough.
Robinson’s clever chip over the top, for James Lewis and Dante Mama to chase, led to a Welsh scrum just metres from the Accies line. Given their dominance in the scrum already, it was little surprise that Welsh left with a penalty try. Robinson added the extras.
Welsh didn’t have to wait too long for try number three. Rob Lewis’s kick through for Joe Ajuwa to chase ended with an Accies scrum, but with the home side under pressure in that department, Welsh soon had a scrum of their own.
Nathan Vella, Peter Edwards and Ollie Frost replaced Nathan Morris, Alec Hepburn and Rob Lewis at the next scrum and when the home side were penalised, Stedman took a quick tap and forced his way over for his second of the game. Robinson converted.
Josh Watkins then replaced Dante Mama with Tinknell moving to centre.
Excellent play by Denbee and Ben West at the contact area to disrupt and turn over Accies possession sent the Welsh backs away, as the away then went in search of the bonus point score. But it was the home side that struck with a converted try by Mike Campbell ten minutes, as the replacement scrum half hacked on and touched down. Fly half Iain Chisholm converted.
With the gloom descending over Raeburn Place, the Exiles finally got that elusive fourth try and it would prove the pick of their five try haul. Taking a leaf out of the Accies’ book, replacement Josh Watkins collected a poor clearance before the on loan Worcester Academy player kicked ahead and won the race to touchdown.
Robinson couldn’t add the extras – bringing to an end his run of 14 successful attempts at goal against the Accies.
The fly half would return to form, however, as prop forward Billy Moss rounded off a comfortable win for Welsh in the final minute, after great work by James Lewis and Tincknell had nearly set up Watkins in for a second try. After a series of driving plays near the Accies line Moss forcing his way over for try.
London Welsh and Burnell will now turn their attention back to the Greene King IPA Championship and the visit of London Scottish to the Kassam Stadium next Saturday (kick-off 5pm), as first takes on third in what is sure to be an intriguing clash.
London Welsh scorers:
Tries: Stedman (2), Penalty Try, Watkins, Moss; Cons: Robinson (4).
Edinburgh Academical scorers:
Tries: Campbell; Cons: Chisholm.
Referee: Stuart Gaffikin (IRFU)
Referee Assistants: Rob Dickson (SRU) & Brian Darling (SRU)