London Welsh claim RFU Championship glory
May 30, 2012
Centre Hudson Tonga'uiha crossed for a crucial try for London Welsh at the Kassam Stadium © Getty Images
London Welsh have done all they can on the field to win promotion to the Aviva Premiership, after beating Cornish Pirates over two legs to win the Championship.
Now the club need another significant victory off the pitch if they are to claim a place among England's elite clubs next season.
The Exiles wrapped up the title with a 29-20 victory over the Pirates in the second leg of the season finale at the Kassam Stadium that carried them to a 66-20 aggregate triumph following their first leg success last week.
London Welsh have outlined their determination to appeal a recent decision by the Professional Game Board and approved by the Rugby Football Union - to block their promotion. Chairman Bleddyn Phillips vowed before the game that London Welsh, if crowned champions, would do "everything within our power" to overturn the RFU's decision.
London Welsh came into the second leg with a 16-point advantage and overcame a spirited Pirates performance to seal victory on the night with tries from Hudson Tonga'hui and Jack Moates and 19 points from the boot of full-back Alex Davies.
The Pirates had threatened a comeback when wing Matt Evans finished an electric breakaway try to put them 13-6 ahead. But by the time Ryan Storer drove over for a try five minutes from time, the Championship title was already heading to Old Deer Park.
The result will extend the uncertainty for Newcastle, who finished bottom of the Premiership but do not yet know whether they will be relegated. "Hopefully everything off the pitch will get sorted now. We have given the RFU something to think about," London Welsh captain Jonathan Mills told Sky Sports 1.
London Welsh had finished fourth in the league season but timed their run of form to perfection to win the title through the controversial play-off system. The club were told four hours before the first leg that they had failed to meet the minimum standards required to attain a place in the Premiership.
That only served to galvanise the team and they needed all that desire to douse the early fire from the Pirates, who threw everything at London Welsh. Teenage fly-half Aaron Penberthy proved to be an inspired selection and his drop-goal, plus a penalty from Rob Cook, helped the Pirates open an early 6-0 lead.
Davies pegged it back before the Pirates forced a turnover inside their own 22 and hit London Welsh on the counter-attack. Cook surged over the halfway line, kicked for the corner and Evans raced past a napping Tonga'uiha to score the try.
London Welsh were not content to preserve their advantage and wing Joe Ajuwa, a try-scorer in the first leg, was heavily involved and a Davies penalty reduced the arrears to 13-9 on the night.
Two more penalties from the fullback eventually edged London Welsh into the lead just after the hour mark and they took control of the match with Tonga'huia's converted try. The Pirates refused to buckle and Storer crashed over from close range but London Welsh rounded off the victory with Moates racing away for their second try.
"We took last week as a semi-final and tonight we took as a final," said man of the match Lee Beach. "We had a 0-0 policy going in and it was a must-win game. The Pirates are a great team. We knew they would be coming hard at us for 30 minutes. We finally put their fire out and the gaps appeared and we took our opportunities."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene