Exiles win three to reach 7s finale
July 21, 2012
London Welsh laid down an early marker with a win over hosts Sale Sharks
J.P Morgan Sevens Series
London Welsh showed that they will be quick learners when they start life in the Aviva Premiership when they won three from three in Pool B of the JP Morgan Asset Management Sevens Series to book their place in the series final.
The Exiles began in blistering form against the hosts Sale Sharks, then showed their class in wins against Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers to finish the night with a total of 117 points scored. The side was lead by flanker Michael Hills who used to play for Sale and he enjoyed the return to his former club.
"It was lovely coming back to Sale tonight and I got a warm reception from the fans," Hill told ESPN. "I had a lot of messages and a lot of tweets off the boys wishing us luck, so hopefully this is the first silverware of the season and hopefully we go on and add to it."
Sale will join the Exiles in the finale at Bath's Recreation Ground on August 3 after they recovered from their opening loss to win their next two matches. Those wins meant that they could say farewell to their home ground Edgeley Park before the move to the brand-new Salford City Stadium.
"It is great to play here one more time and there was a lot of support," Sale captain Mark Easter said. "Now we're in the final and we'll see how we do there."
Michael Hills led London Welsh to first place in Pool B of the JP Morgan Asset Management Sevens Series with three wins from three © Getty Images
The Exiles took the early advantage in their opening match against Sale when Chris Banfield ran in and converted the first try of the evening and they finished with a 31-19 victory. Northampton then earned East Midlands' bragging rights when they beat Leicester Tigers 26-24. The match allowed Saints to unleash the pace of Anders Mogensen who ran in two tries and is likely to offer head coach Jim Mallinder an option to replace the departing Chris Ashton on the wing.
London Welsh took advantage of Northampton Saints' short turnaround to run in six tries in a 34-7 win before Sale recovered from their early loss to run in eight tries as they beat Leicester 50-5. London Welsh then made it three wins from three by beating Leicester 52-2 before Sale wrapped up second place with a 36-16 win over Northampton.
London Welsh playmaker Chris Banfield was one player who caught the eye. He ran in two tries in the Exiles' opening match, added three in their second then pulled the strings as the Exiles wrapped up a trio of wins. He recently played for Great Britain in the World University Games in Brive and carried on the form that helped him return home with a gold medal.
England sevens coach Ben Ryan was an interested spectator and said, "he's young, able and very gifted and I'm sure it won't be long before he gets full Welsh sevens honours."
Leicester meanwhile handed a debut to Lawrence Wooldridge, who a week ago was running in the 400m at the British Grand Prix at Crystal Palace. He showed the pace that has meant he's run 47.43seconds for the quarter-mile, though his lack of experience in rugby shone through at times. "I don't know if he's even played a game of sevens before," Ryan said. "That's not a steep learning curve, that's a cliff face."
The Series now switches to Kingsholm where Gloucester, Bath, Exeter Chiefs and Worcester Warriors will contest Pool C next Friday.
* Progress to the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby Sevens Series Final at The Rec, Bath, August 3
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