London Welsh ended the year on a disappointing note as they slumped to a second consecutive Championship defeat, and their first of the season at the Kassam Stadium.
Unbeaten in their previous five outings at their Oxford home, Welsh surrendered that record on a night when little went right for the home side and London Scottish took the few chances that came their way.
They didn’t create many, but they were enough to secure them a fifth straight league win and move them to within four points of Welsh at the top of the table.
Keen to bounce back from their defeat at Bedford Blues, Welsh created more than enough chances of their own, and were twice denied by the TMO, but a lack of penetration, coupled with an off day in front of goal left the home side frustrated and ensured that as we go into 2014 this is the most open Championship season in their competition’s short history.
A knock on from the kick-off handed Scottish the early initiative, but Welsh were soon driving their opponents back in the tackle.
But the boots of Daniel Newton and Jim Thompson were keeping the home side pinned in their own half, and it wasn’t until we approached the ten minute mark that Welsh were able to show their teeth in attack – Rob Lewis’s box kick was partially charged down and Seb Stegmann collected.
A forward pass would thwart Welsh, but winning the scrum against the head Gordon Ross’s kick forced Scottish to concede a lineout deep inside their own 22, from which the Welsh forwards drove their way over.
Referee Ian Tempest refereed it to the TMO and the home side would have to settle for a five-metre scrum. For the next five minutes, the game was confined to a small area five metres from the Scottish line, but having been held up for a second time Welsh left empty-handed, with Ross then off target as the first chance of points came and went.
But from the drop out Ross’s up and under broke perfectly into the arms of the waiting Carl Kirwan and in a typically robust surge for the line the flanker forced his way over, only for the TMO to deny Welsh for a second time and bring play back for knock on.
When Ross then missed with his second attempt at the posts, there was already a sense that this could be one of those nights for Welsh.
Sure enough, just before half-time Welsh were penalised at a scrum just outside their own 22 and Daniel Newton made light of the gusty wind to bisect the uprights and give the away wide the slenderest of leads going into the break.
Welsh couldn’t have asked for a better start to the second half when Scottish failed to deal with the kick-off and were forced to concede a five-metre scrum, only for Rob Lewis’s feed to be deemed to be crooked.
Scottish made the most of their escape as Lee Millar made an immediate impact by finding a gap and when Welsh were penalised on the floor the replacement fly half extended the visitors lead.
When Jordi Pasqualin blocked off Seb Jewell, as the full back chased down his own up and under, Alex Davies had the chance to get Welsh on the board. But if anyone still needed convincing that this wasn’t to be Welsh’s night then Davies’s scuffed effort was it.
With every Welsh moment of misfortune, Scottish were growing in confidence with their well drilled defence happy to soak up all that the home side could throw at it.
Millar and Oli Grove both missed chances to extend Scottish’s lead – the latter from well inside his own half – while Scottish were perhaps fortune not to concede another five-metre scrum when Jewell kicked ahead.
Tom May’s hack on forced Scottish to concede a lineout and despite all that had gone before, Welsh rallied for one final push with eight minutes remaining.
And for a moment it seemed like Welsh would finally make the breakthrough, as the forwards made inroads towards the Scottish tryline. However, a wayward pass, as Welsh then looked to go wide, was scooped up Miles Mantella and the winger raced away to score. Millar converted to effectively seal victory for Scottish.
The game up, Welsh avoided the indignity of being scoreless when Nathan Morris slipped the ball out of the tackle for Alan Awcock to squeeze over in the corner. Even the wind was conspiring against Welsh, however, as Davies’s conversion looked on target to at least secure a losing bonus point, only for the elements to decide otherwise.
London Welsh scorers:
London Scottish scorers:
Tries: Mantella; Cons: Millar; Pens: Newton, Millar.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Referee Assistants: Jonathan Healy & John Meredith