London Welsh 26pts - Bedford 20pts
Old Deer Park, Saturday 9th March 2002
London Welsh were quick off the mark, scoring a try within two minutes of the kick off. Stealing a Bedford throw in, the Welsh backs moved the ball quickly to the right, where fullback Matt Vines joined the line to finish the move with blistering pace.
Richard Mahony converted for a 7-0 lead.
Mahony later added a 16th minute penalty to open up a 10-0 London Welsh lead, but as the half progressed Bedford began to display some of the form that had taken them to 5th in the League table. In the 33rd minute outside half Mark Meenan kicked a drop goal following a period of pressure near the Welsh line.
London Welsh hit back straight away when flanker Florent Rossigneux was driven over following good interplay between the Welsh backs and forwards. (15-3). Mahony then added another penalty in injury time to give London Welsh a half time lead of 18-3. Bedford were appearing frustrated at this stage and a number of physical skirmishes followed, none of them to do with the ball.
This led to Bedford prop Chris Horsman being dismissed within 5 minutes of the restart following a series of blows to his front row opponent.
London Welsh added a penalty through the boot of Mahony 21-3 before London Welsh produced a try following a determined drive from a lineout. Replacement hooker Gregg Botterman was credited with the touchdown. This took London Welsh to a 26-3 lead after 52 minutes, as home fans could anticipate a fourth try and bonus point from a tiring 14-man defence.
As so often, the 14 men rallied bravely, and following turnovers from London Welsh attacks, clawed their way back into the match.
Firstly, flanker Fred Fichot was put over in the 67th minute, then Mark Meenan finished off a spirited attack in the 74th minute to bring the score to 26-13.
London Welsh minds were focussed more sharply after replacement wing James Hinkins sped over in the final minutes of normal time for a try, converted by Meenan which left the Visitors only 6 points adrift.
To their credit, London Welsh still went in search of the elusive fourth try, and Vines did cross the line to finish a good move. Sadly for the Welsh, a pass was adjudged forward, so the score did not count, as the final whistle ended a fierce but enjoyable contest. Enjoyable, that is, from the safety of the stand.
Young referee Ben Breakspear is making rapid strides as a referee. In just over a year he has gone from officiating a college game to being a touchline official during last weekend's RBS 6 Nations clash between Wales and Ireland at Principality Stadium.
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This week, Wales squad players Sam Warburton, Jonathan Davies and Ken Owens took time out to support Operation Net Safe, a joint initiative by the four Welsh police forces to tackle child sexual abuse. The forces are working with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, the only UK-wide child protection charity dedicated solely to reducing the risk of children being sexually abused, on a campaign called Stop it Now!