Rugby Union: Jones' walk in the Park

Rosslyn Park 20 London Welsh 24
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THE "haves" in rugby these days are perceived as those sides in the top flight with cash backers; but on the evidence of yesterday's Jewson National League One clash Rosslyn Park deserve to be regarded as "haves".

They are the highest placed amateur club in England in what is in effect the Third Division. None of their players are paid, yet they are scrapping on a near equal footing with their financial betters and, most importantly of all, a visit to their Roehampton clubhouse reveals that the spirit of amateurism is far from dead; indeed it thrives.

Park's mid-table position is a credit to them and for a brief while against a generally slicker, but initially slacker, London Welsh side, they threatened to upset the form book.

But even in the muddy conditions the Exiles' threequarters were too full of running and their magnificent full-back, Adam Jones, was able to show Park a clean pair of heels on a number of occasions. On two of them he crossed for stunningly taken tries. His pace was electric and his spotting of gaps and running of angles was sublime.

Welsh always looked better out wide. The Park heavyweights up front have been bothering all the teams in the division, but the moment the scrum- half Darren Edwards got the ball in his hands the home side were in trouble.

They had taken a 10-point lead within quarter of an hour, the right wing David Casado touching down for a well-taken try and the reliable boot of the fly-half Andy Maddock adding the conversion to his seventh-minute penalty. But Welsh, fourth in League One, knew it was only a matter of time before they could break back.

The much-travelled Steve Pilgrim, once of Wasps, Harlequins and even Leeds Rugby League club (for a trial which earned him a year ban), yesterday popped up in the centre for Welsh and had a superlative match. His speed on the break was awesome and his instinct for the right angle to run was unerring. In defence he was exemplary and all-in-all Welsh have a gem.

But the glory went to Jones, who having scored his two then set up the hooker Ryan Campbell's try late in the first half; Pilgrim converted all three of them. The second half saw both sides begin to tire, but Welsh were determined to compete in the scrums and did well.

Park found it next to impossible to break down the tight, strong-tackling Exiles defence in their rare forays upfield, but they kept the ball tight as often as they could and showed their mettle by managing to wheel eight successive scrums on their line late in the second half. Welsh had done just enough by then to nick the points and keep in touch at the top, although a spirited Park scored a consolation try through the left wing Paul Futter when the game spilled over into injury time.

Rosslyn Park: E Dickinson; D Casado, N Marvel, T Dalwood (P Brady, 75), P Futter; A Maddock, T Springhall; B Fennell, C Ritchie, J Ford (M Yeldham, 58), I Campbell-Lamerton (R Cable, 75), L Gibson, T Benson, L McCormack, C Boardman.

London Welsh: A Jones; S Roskell, A Courrier (P Shaw, 79), S Pilgrim, J Storey; P Challinor, D Edwards; G Holmes (S Emms, 65), R Campbell, A Millward, C Vogle, C Whitaker, D Muckalt, R Phillips (capt), L Jones.

Referee: G Morandin (Italy)