Rugby Union: Vines puts wind up Cherries

London Welsh 18 Gloucester 34
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The Independent Online
Briefly the Dragon roared. But only briefly. London Welsh, having led a thrilling fourth-round tie in the Tetley's Bitter Cup, went down fighting, pride intact. Victory may not have been theirs, but the Jewson National League One leaders did not disgrace themselves in the face of some stern Premiership opposition.

There were plenty of tries, eight in all, with two for Gloucester's Robert Jewell and a pair for London Welsh's speedy fullback Matt Vines. There were dramatic climatic changes, at times the players could barely be seen in the chill rain which swept across Old Deer Park at intervals during the match.

Considering London Welsh were without four key players, the centre Andy Currier, the fly-half Craig Raymond, the wing Martin Giraud and the full- back Peter Shaw, they stuck manfully to their task. Gloucester, too, had omitted key personnel, but mainly only to the bench.

There were Cherry and White pockets of shocked silence around the ground, into which some 3,000 had packed themselves, when the Exiles, recovering from the first of Jewell's gems - a fine try down the left on his Cup debut - hit back with two tries of their own. Both were scored by Vines, a student at St Mary's University College in Strawberry Hill. A thigh injury to the regular full-back Shaw saw Vines get his call-up papers this week for the big one and he certainly rose to the occasion.

His first came in the eighth minute, when the supremely troublesome Rowland Phillips, the former Neath back-row player who won 10 caps for Wales, picked up from the back of a scrum on his 10-metre line. He churned his way upfield, drawing the cover, then put through a perfect chip which Vines touched on with his boot before catching up with it over the line. Craig Brown did the honours with the conversion.

London Welsh's second try was a classic of the kind seen a couple of decades ago at Old Deer Park. A scrum won, a long pass across his three- quarters by the Zimbabwe international Brown (he has won more than 50 caps) a fine take by the wing James Reynolds and Gloucester were in trouble. Reynolds' surge drew the tackles of both Craig Emmerson and Audley Lumsden, leaving the speedy Vines a clear path down the left. Welsh joy was short- lived however.

Gloucester were soon level after the referee Ashley Rowden awarded them a penalty try after a maul collapsed on the Exiles' line; Nick Osman converted. Then the Gloucester captain, Pete Glanville, took the ball on, it was recycled, Ian Sanders found Catling, who sent over Jewell on the left, and order was restored despite Brown's first penalty.

Jewell had a hand in the next Gloucester try, giving Mark Cornwell the scoring pass after just failing to get in himself and despite Brown's second penalty, and a stirring fightback by Welsh, Gloucester moved further ahead when their other lock Dave Sims thundered over.

It was no coincidence that by then Gloucester had introduced their regular half-backs Mark Mapletoft and Scott Benton and they made an instant impact with canny options and understanding. When Mapletoft darted over in the 75th minute after a series of breaks by the Gloucester forwards, then converted his own effort, it was all over.

London Welsh: M Vines; D Lubliner, S Roskell, M Dawes, J Reynolds; C Brown, T Lewsey; M McCormack (S Emms, 60), A Harbinson (R Camble, 60), G Holmes, D Ruffell, M Hayman, D Harries (D Muckalt, 68), R Phillips (capt), L Jones.

Gloucester: C Catling; A Lumsden, C Emmerson, R Tombs, R Jewell; N Osman (M Mapletoft, 60), I Sanders (S Benton, 60); T Windo, C Fortey, P Vickery (A Deacon, 68), M Cornwell, D Sims (R Ward, 78), P Glanville (capt; S Pearman, 78), S Devereux, N Carter.

Referee: A Rowden (Reading).