Burns plays the breaks to keep Gloucester rising
London Welsh 25 Ggloucester 31
James Simpson-Daniel stood waving his arms like a traffic policeman on the ring road around Oxford that brings you to London Welsh's borrowed home but for all the Gloucester back's reputation as one of the Premiership's most reliable try-makers, he was never going to receive the ball, not even with his side sniffing a fourth try for a bonus point in added time at the end.
The visitors were quite happy with a win, thanks very much, and edging up to fifth in the Premiership – above their next opponents, Bath – in the early stages of Nigel Davies's tenure as director of rugby. So the forwards kept the ball to themselves before fly-half Freddie Burns booted it dead and Simpson-Daniel just kept waving.
"We're building this team," Davies said, "and what we didn't want to do was surrender an away win that was very important for us." As a proud Welshman, late of the Scarlets, he added that he was unsurprised at London Welsh's able adjustment to the Premiership since promotion. "They are focused on the contact areas and are very efficient at it," he said.
And so they needed to be in an entertaining match in which one of the few concessions to finding space rather than clattering an opponent was when the Gloucester No 8 Sione Kalamafoni leapt over Welsh's scrum-half Tyson Keats, American football style. Davies's London Welsh counterpart Lyn Jones said Keats was "lucky he didn't get a mouthful of aluminium". Otherwise Jones said his men were "a bit disappointed and frustrated" not to add a win here to those in the past fortnight over Sale and Exeter.
They were hampered by first-half injuries to the hooker Neil Briggs – his shoulder pranged in a tackle on Kalamafoni – and Sonny Parker, the former Wales centre, who went for an X-ray on a suspected broken ankle. Welsh's other decorated centre, Gavin Henson, is not quite ready for his competitive debut after a fractured cheekbone.
There were times in the first half when the 22-year-old Burns looked every bit the best bet as an alternative England fly-half to Toby Flood, with big kicks from the hand and the ability to break sharply off either foot. He had kicked Gloucester into a 6-3 lead – Gordon Ross having landed the first of his six penalties for Welsh – when he created the visitors' first try after 15 minutes with a show-and-go and a 50-metre break. Welsh scrambled but illegally so, with the left wing Nick Scott sent to the sin bin. Before they could reorganise, Burns's tap invited Simpson-Daniel to snipe to the corner where Scott would have been and Shane Monahan – playing in place of the injured Jonny May – dived over.
A forward's try by Tom Savage had Gloucester 18-9 ahead at the interval though the margin should have been tighter. Keats, a nuggetty New Zealander who ought to seek sponsorship from the nearby Mini production plant, took a tapped penalty hopelessly into the forwards on the Gloucester goalline when a simple three points was on offer. But the former Hurricanes and Crusaders No 9 did much to drive London Welsh onwards after the interval. Ross kicked two penalties either side of one by Billy Twelvetrees – the latter kicking while Burns was in the sin bin, trying to convince anyone who would listen that his batting down of Ross's pass towards a three-man overlap was an attempted tackle – and Gloucester led 21-15.
Then Keats bulleted clear from a poorly defended ruck and backed up Hudson Tonga'uiha's short drive to set up a try for Franck Montanella that Ross converted.
So Welsh were ahead for the first time, just after the hour, and Ross's penalty for Kalamafoni's high jump quickened their pulses to the extent that they rashly played through an advantage. An offside allowed Burns to trim Welsh's lead to 25-24 before Burns received turnover ball and released Simpson-Daniel for a knifing run supported by Henry Trinder and Savage to make a try for the replacement prop Shaun Knight that Burns converted. Had Akapusi Qera's subsequent charge not been held, Gloucester would have had their bonus point, and Welsh would have lost theirs. The alternative outcomes were much the fairer.
London Welsh: Try Montanella; Conversion Ross; Penalties Ross 6. Gloucester: Tries Monahan, Savage, Knight; Conversions Burns 2; Penalties Burns 3, Twelvetrees. London Welsh: Jewell; Arscott, Parker (MacKenzie 20), Tonga'uiha, Scott; Ross (Davis, 74), Keats (Runciman, 74); Montanella (Bristow, 67), Briggs (George 12), Ion (Joly, 52), Mills (capt), Corker, Browne (Kulemin, 74), Hills, Jackson (To'oala, 40) Gloucester: Cook; Monahan, Tindall (Trinder, 62), Twelvetrees, Simpson-Daniel; Burns, Robson (Lewis, 62); Wood (Murphy, 64), D'Apice (Britton, 58), Harden (Knight, 58), Savage, Hamilton (capt), Buxton (Evans, 48), Qera, Kalamafoni. Referee: L Apgeraint-Roberts (Nottinghamshire).
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