London Welsh celebrate their promotion back to the Premiership.
London Welsh secured promotion back to the Premiership last night with victory in the Championship final against Bristol at the first time of asking.
London Welsh took a 19-point advantage into the second leg and had to battle hard to edge out Bristol at a sold-out Memorial Stadium before coming away with a 21-20 victory to eventually secure a 48-28 aggregate triumph.
Bristol ran in three tries from Andy Short, Mitch Eadie and former Dragons centre Adam Hughes but a late double from James Tideswell and Seb Stegmann made sure of an immediate return for Welsh.
"It's just fantastic for London Welsh; it's a fantastic club," said head coach Justin Burnell. "Next year it will be Leicester, Northampton and Saracens - absolutely over the moon. How good is that going to be in Oxford and for the supporters - Premiership rugby."
Not for the first time this season, Burnell singled out the character within this London Welsh squad as the key ingredient in this season's success.
"I've been very fortunate; I worked in a very successful period with the Cardiff Blues but what you find with London Welsh is we haven't really got any marquee signings or superstars. What we've got is a massive collective approach," added Burnell.
"If you work hard you get rewards. That's our environment and that's what we thrive on. People who now come into our environment now have to fit into what we're about. It's about the London Welsh environment and approach."
Despite taking a 19-point advantage into Wednesday's 2nd leg, Burnell sent his side out at the Memorial Stadium with the mind-set of winning the game, and not just sitting back on their lead.
"It was never about aggregate, we had to come here to win. For our progression we have to come to places like this and win," he said.
"If you're going to go into the Premiership you've got to have consistency over the two legs and we had two wins. Aggregate was irrelevant.
"We were constantly reminded that there would be 12,000 people screaming and shouting, but we had to shut that noise out and worry about ourselves. We weathered the storm for the first 20-30 minutes and then dug in and went up another gear."
When Adam Hughes crossed for Bristol with 11 minutes to go, just eight points separated the sides, however, and a Memorial Stadium eager to end the club's 93-year association at the ground in style sensed an opportunity. Burnell, though, had confidence in his players.
"You've got to have belief. I'm very fortunate that I haven't just got 22 players, I've 40 players and 12 support staff who've all got the same vision as me," he said.
"When they threw absolutely everything at us we soaked it up and just kept coming and coming, and then our bench came on and changed the game as it does every week.
"Bristol have been a very, very good side all year - they've been the form team. We've just been sitting in the back ground coming up nice and quietly and I was very confident that in the final furlong we'd come up on the fence and take the plaudits."
Burnell also singled out London Welsh fly half and assistant coach Gordon Ross for praise, after an exemplary kicking display, both in front of goal and tactically, in testing conditions.
"He's just professional; he trains harder than any of our players. He really struggled in the Leeds game at home - he missed so many kicks - but there was nobody blaming Gordon. I always knew he would come good," said Burnell.
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.
All the build up to Australia and the Dove Men Series in this week's Principality Welsh Rugby Union Podcast. We hear from Wales assistant coach Rob Howley, captain Sam Warburton, centre Jamie Roberts and lock Alun Wyn Jones. We also find out moe about the new pitch at the Millennium Stadium from WRU group chief executive Roger Lewis and Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism Ken Skates, while Ospreys coach Steve Tandy looks ahead to the LV Cup.