London Welsh must overturn a seven-point deficit at Oxford’s Kassam Stadium next Sunday if they are to keep alive their dream of an immediate return to the Aviva Premiership.
But for Alex Lozowski’s penalty with the last kick of a thrilling semi-final first leg, the margin would have been even less, but having twice trailed Leeds Carnegie by 13 points at Headingley yesterday, the Exiles will feel it’s still all to play for.
If they are to prolong their season past Sunday, however, then they’ll have to address their penalty count and nullify the threat of Glyn Hughes.
Despite outscoring the home side on the try count, three tries to two, the Leeds fly half punished Welsh at every opportunity in an exemplary kicking display on his way to a 25-point haul.
Hughes opened the home side’s account with a brace of penalties, before Alex Davies responded for the visitors, albeit via the crossbar after Leeds were penalised for not releasing in the tackle.
It had been an impressive start by the home side and Rob Vickerman’s try was just reward, although it was a poor one from Welsh’s point of view with two missed tackles.
Hughes converted and then added a penalty to leave Welsh 16-3 adrift.
The Exiles hit back with a penalty try, as the hand of Mike Myerscough prevented Nathan Trevett’s pass from finding its target with Welsh harbouring a two-man overlap. The Leeds second row was sent to the sin-bin.
Hughes and Ross, who had taken over the kicking duties from the injured Davies, traded penalties.
But it was the visitors who scored next, McColl ghosting through, feeding Vickerman, who in turn passed for Fred Burdon to touch down.
Welsh were again 13 points adrift, but once more hit back when Alan Awcock dived over. Ross added the extras.
Hughes kicked another penalty at the end of the half, making it 29-20 at the interval.
Exiles couldn’t have asked for a better start to the second period as Seb Stegmann squeezed the ball to Awcock to cross for his second try in the corner.
Hughes kicked another penaly, and added another with Stedman sin-binned.
Ross replied with a kick of his own, and although he missed his next attempt, was on target with an effort that made it 35-31.
But when the Exiles were penalised, Lozowski stepped up with the last kick of the game to leave a converted try between the sides when battle recommences next Sunday.