Irish win class war

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The Independent Online

The underdog may have had his day in rugby. The potential for the glorious upset is getting rarer as the gulf between the professional and the amateur games widens, and this was perfectly demonstrated by two of London's three original exile clubs.

The underdog may have had his day in rugby. The potential for the glorious upset is getting rarer as the gulf between the professional and the amateur games widens, and this was perfectly demonstrated by two of London's three original exile clubs.

Friends and rivals, both London Irish and Welsh approached this game with a commercial eye on victory and an emotional one on the past that they share, but there was never any real doubt as to the final outcome.

Gallant and spirited, particularly in the opening 20 minutes and for a 10-minute spell in the second half, Welsh eventually played like an amateur team who have jobs to go to on a Monday morning. They dreamed of an upset but this was less about that and far more about the changes that the professional era has brought.

Irish now play in the fantastic Madjeski Stadium in Reading, although ironically today's away game was closer to their original support base, and they train their players every day. Although Welsh flirted with full-time professionalism they have since gone back to the old school of rugby which prevailed until a few years ago.

Dafydd Jones, liaison officer for London Welsh, said they were "hoping to promote the ethos of a family club. We don't want to go away from that and we think that professional clubs might have done. Our players train in midweek and hold down jobs but are very loyal to the club. We create an atmosphere of enjoyment that is based around young and old alike.

"To us, players have to play with the heart, and we think it makes us a very attractive club. Irish were a much better side today, even though at times we competed, but the benefits of being full-time professionals were there for all to see."

Jones described the game perfectly, as the greater organisation and fitness of the Irish proved too strong.

From the scrummage to their running lines to the back- line passing, everything was sharper and more practised.

Ironically their first try in the 33rd minute was by Steve Williams, a Welshman, thus expertly proving that there is no loyalty in the modern game, and as the game progressed further scores were added by Junior Tonu'u, Paul Sackey, Matt Oliver and Nnamdi Ezulike.

Richard Mahoney did sprint in from 40 yards for the Welsh to finish the game, but it was nothing more than a consolation. The real consolation, however, is the atmosphere and spirit that London Welsh possess and generate.

London Welsh: M Vines; A Jones, S Roskell, A Bidwell, J Philip; A Lee (R Mahoney, 80), R Elliott (T Lewsey, 78); S Pope (J Brannigan, 66), G Botterman (D Price, 80), I Buckett, C Eagle (A Johnson, 66), C Langley, M White (F Rossigneux, 72), L Jones, M Fitzgerald (R Griffith, 72).

London Irish: C O'Shea; N Ezulike, M Oliver, T Matson, P Sackey (J Bishop, 74); B Everitt (J Cunningham, 65), J Tonu'u; N Hatley (R Hardwich, 54), R Kirke (D Alexopoulous, 47), S Halford (M Worsley, 54), R Strudwick (S Williams, 24), J Fahrensohn, E Halvey, C Allan, R Bates.

Referee: R Maybank.

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