In hindsight it was perhaps asking too much for Lyn Jones’ side to magic a fairytale Aviva Premiership debut, but there were still enough signs to suggest that the Exiles will be no pushovers this season.
Returning to the scene of arguably the club’s greatest triumph - Welsh’s Championship final victory over the Cornish Pirates three short months ago – the Exiles found themselves 17-0 down and on course for a rude awakening to life in the top flight.
If Tom Arscott’s try allayed such fears, then Hudson Tonga’uiha’s on the stroke of half-time had the home support on their feet. Perhaps the impossible might just be possible after all. Welsh left the pitch to a huge ovation at their adopted new home ground.
It was not to be - Leicester don’t do sentiment. Geoff Parling’s early second try set the tone and tries from Julian Salvi and Vereniki Goneva ensured that Leicester got their season off to a bonus point winning start.
Toby Flood and Gordon Ross both spurned chances to split the uprights but with Welsh showing a few early nerves, Leicester slowly began to build the pressure.
Flood did open the scoring at the second attempt, with Welsh penalised at a scrum. The red line held out for 13 minutes before the Tigers registered the try they’d been threatening.
The Tigers created an overlap and number eight Thomas Waldron had the angle to beat Arscott to the corner.
Leicester’s driving maul was being employed to good effect and it would give them their second try, and a second for Waldrom. Flood pushed a penalty into the corner and the number eight emerged to take the plaudits.
Welsh’s Premiership debut was threatening to turn into a baptism of fire. But Welsh hadn’t clawed their way out of the Championship just to lay down now.
Joe Ajuwa claimed the restart and prop Franck Montanella was bundled into touch just short of the line. Welsh tails were up though and they worked it wide for Arscott to go over in the corner.
The relief was almost tangible – London were up and running in the Premiership. And it got better on the stroke of half-time. Jonah Holmes broke from a lineout before the forwards took it on.
When Welsh were turned over it looked like the chance for late points had gone, only for Tonga’uiha to pick up and burst clear to score in the corner. Ross couldn’t convert, but the Exiles headed to the dressing room far happier than they might have anticipated at 17-0 down.
Leicester needed just two minutes after the restart to reassert their authority over the Premiership’s new boys – Parling going over. And although Ross wiped out three of those points with a penalty, tries from Salvi and winger Vereniki Goneva made sure the Tigers avoided an opening weekend banana skin.
Welsh never allowed them to run away with it, though, keeping the Tigers scoreless for the final 19 minutes. The disappointment for the Exiles will have been that they weren’t able to orchestrate a try or two of their own in that time and with it maybe what would have been an invaluable try bonus point.
So the season is finally up and running for Welsh after what has been an eventful summer. Leicester Tigers negotiated, just the small matter of the reigning Aviva Premiership champions to come at the Twickenham Stoop next Friday evening.
Tries: Arscott, Tonga’uiha; Pens: Ross.
Tries: Waldrom (2), Parling, Salvi, Goneva. Cons: Flood (5); Pens: Flood.
Referee: JP Doyle
Referee Assistants: Nigel Carrick & Andrew Watson