Key Welsh errors hand Chiefs entertaining win
4:40pm Monday 8th April 2002 in London Welsh
London Welsh 19 Exeter Chiefs 34 In a wonderfully entertaining contest, London Welsh slipped to defeat courtesy of a couple of key mistakes, however, the scoreline does not reflect the closeness of the match which went all the way down to the wire, writes Allan Price.
Exeter arrived with their usual well-drilled pack, led by the two Baxter brothers, with the shrewd Australian outside half, Chris Malone, running the show at the back. It was, however, London Welsh who took the lead in the fourth minute following a penalty awarded for not releasing the ball after a tackle. A quickly tapped kick by flanker Florent Rossigneux led to the ball being passed to the left where full back Jon Ufton was on hand to cross wide out. His magnificent conversion kick took the Welsh to a 7-0 lead.
Ufton hit the posts with a long-range penalty attempt in the eighth minute before Exeter mounted their recovery, creating a beautifully simple try in the 14th minute. Powering downfield, the pack created good possession for Chris Malone to put centre Stephen Ward in under the posts. Malone's conversion levelled the scores at 7-7.
The same formula was employed in the 20th minute when left wing Piran Trethewey was given a clear run-in to increase the Exeter lead to 7-12. Malone then added a 29th minute penalty to increase this lead to 7-15. Despite sustained London Welsh pressure on the Exeter line, a resolute defence held firm to maintain this lead to half-time.
London Welsh began the second half with further pressure on the Exeter line, but errors and turnovers denied them a score. Instead, in the 48th minute, No 8 Richard Baxter was driven over the Welsh line following a lineout near the corner flag. This opened up a lead of 7-20 which at this stage London Welsh looked capable of clawing back.
The crucial score in the match arrived in the 55th minute when a London Welsh attack broke down. The ball was hacked ahead and in the ensuing chase to the line a Welsh player was adjudged to have obstructed an attacker. A penalty try was awarded and Chris Malone's conversion took the lead to a more daunting 7-27.
London Welsh did not give up and further attacking pressure led to a penalty try for the home team, Exeter having been adjudged to have killed the ball at a ruck. Ufton's conversion took the score to 14-27.
A second Welsh mistake in the 64th minute effectively ended their afternoon. A loose pass was hacked on and bounced kindly into the hands of the speedy Trethewey who crossed in the corner, from where Malone converted.
London Welsh continued to battle on, with replacement wing John Swords speeding over in the left corner after a good attacking run down the right by flanker Ed Thorpe. This 73rd minute score left the Welsh trailing 19-34 and despite sustained effort, the home side could not conjure up the further try and bonus point, Exeter finishing worthy winners on the day.