London Welsh stormed back from a 15-point deficit to beat London Scottish 21-18 at Richmond on Saturday, but victory was not enough to take them through to the quarter-finals of the British & Irish Cup.
When Scottish led 18-3 just before half-time, it seemed as though they would top Pool 2 and go into the knock-out stages.
But London Welsh’s comeback, inspired by tries from skipper Tom May and replacement prop Nathan Morris, and Pontypridd’s 43-0 win over Edinburgh Academical, saw the Wales-based club go through.
Coach Justin Burnell’s side finished third in the group, but they had the consolation of avoiding a third successive defeat by Scottish this season.
Playing with a deceptively strong wind at their backs, Scottish grasped the initiative straight from the kick-off.
A booming kick to touch sent Welsh scuttling back into their own half and a line-out infringement gave Love the chance to open with a penalty goal.
Two more followed and things got worse for the away side with Seb Jewell, who had missed a kick at goal. forced off with a shoulder injury.
Love’s fourth penalty extended the Scottish lead to 12-0, before Jewell’s replacement, Will Robinson, finally got Welsh on the board.
But this was immediately cancelled out by Love’s fifth penalty and the Scottish full back made it six in a row when Welsh were penalised for holding on in the tackle.
A third straight win over the Welsh seemed on the cards.
A try at the start of the second half restored Wesh’s fortunes. Ollie Stedman’s carry got Welsh over the gain-line and Robinson’s floated pass found May, who cut inside before having the strength to force his way over. Robinson could not land the extras.
After an even first-half contest in the scrum, Welsh were beginning to get the upper hand and a complete front row change only added to their dominance.
Two penalties by Robinson made it 18-14 and Welsh’s bravery was rewarded when Morris peeled off from the driving maul to force his way over from close range. Robinson’s conversion saw Welsh open up a three-point lead, 21-18.
Scottish pushed forward, but curiously turned down a kickable penalty when a draw would ultimately have been enough to see them top the pool.
Instead Scottish went for broke only to be held up over the tryline and a penalty to Welsh meant the home side left empty-handed.
London Scottish: Love, Homan (Millar 66), Grove, Gidlow, Mantella, Newton (Thompson 66), Shaw (Pasqualin 58), Irish (Fry 55), Dunn (Kwasnicki 55), Francis (Thiede 63), Karonias (Spivey 43), Lyons, Russell, Everard, Bright (capt).
London Welsh: Awcock, Stegmann, May (capt), Parker, Ajuwa, Jewell (Robinson 10), Cook (Frost 66), Trevett (Hepburn 53), Vella (Morris 53), Tideswell (Edwards 53), Lees (West 73), Browne, Thorpe (Denbee 66), Kirwan, Stedman.
Referee: G Conway (RFU).