Rugby Union: Exiles relive halcyon days

Welsh 71 Wharfedale 24
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The Independent Online
IF THE idea of professional rugby is to put bums on seats, then London Welsh have some special seats. They were purchased from the old Court Number One at Wimbledon, but there weren't many bums at Old Deer Park yesterday, at least not in the numerical sense. Despite the fact that Wales were in Dublin, nobody thought of bringing the kick-off time forward. Those Welshmen who preferred the Jewson League to international rugby were rewarded with the team in red annihilating the Green Machine, as Wharfedale are known, by 11 tries to three. It was the highest score in the League this season.

In their last home game of the campaign, the Welsh scored some brilliant tries, length-of-the field stuff. They have to keep on winning to ensure they finish in the top four, although they are not certain that will gain them promotion. When the season started it was the top two to go up but with the Premiership clubs hell-bent on expanding the two divisions in the Allied Dunbar, they want the top four to be elevated. The trouble is, the RFU are opposed to the idea. The Welsh, of course, prefer the clubs' version. For one thing, their income from the pot would rise from pounds 90,000 to pounds 220,000.

The Exiles - this is the club who have been to Elba and back - played with such panache that the nostalgic might have thought they'd been transported back to those halcyon days when Old Deer Park was a culling field for visiting sides. In the golden era, the Exiles provided not only half the national side but half the Lions. In 1971, they had seven in the victorious Lions party in New Zealand. That year an extract from the accounts showed that the Welsh spent pounds 869 entertaining guest sides. The same season Manchester United's payment of a dividend was pounds 464. Then, the club's could be spoken of in the same breath.

Wharfedale, who won 25-16 here last season, were swept off their feet by a talented back-line who will run and run. They possess great pace and the coach, Clive Griffiths, has given them the even greater gift of receiving and giving a pass almost instantly. At No 8, Rowland Phillips, the former Neath and Wales forward, was, in this context, a man amongst boys.

As for Wharfedale, they are sponsored by the Old Hall Inn at Threshfield and, at times, it showed. You would not imagine there would be much singing in the Yorkshire Dales over this one but, there again, it's still only a game even if it has gone professional. And they did have a try-scoring centre by the name of Jonathan Davies.

London Welsh: A Jones; S Roskell, A Currier (M Dawes, 71), S Pilgrim, J Reynolds; C Raymond, D Edwards (T Lewsey, 70); G Holmes (S Emms, 70), R Campbell, A Millward, C Whittaker, C Vogl, D Muckalt, R Phillips (capt), L Jones (M Langley, 70).

Wharfedale: N Heseltine (capt); A Mounsey, C Walker (S McManus, 50), J Davies, C Eccleston; D Harrison, D Whitfield; N Dickinson, J Ogden (J Lawn, 50), I Peel, D Lister, D Wood (S Allan, 57), P Evans, C Vyvyan (M Cummins, 78), H Verity.

Referee: S Savage (Warwickshire).

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