Welsh in the ascendancy
London Welsh took a giant stride towards regaining their place in the Premiership with a convincing 27-8 win over Bristol in the Championship play-off final first-leg at Kassam Stadium.
Nathan Trevett, Nick Scott and Carl Kirwan all scored tries, with Gordon Ross converting all three and kicking two penalties, to give Welsh a 19-point advantage heading into the second leg.
Bristol had the better of the opening 15 minutes, scoring the opening try through Marco Mama but then conceded 24 unanswered points before Adrian Jarvis kicked a late penalty.
The game was a marred by a serious leg injury to former Welsh captain Ryan Jones, who was carried off midway through the first half.
This highlighted a totally miserable night for Bristol, who failed to come to terms with the miserable conditions, making numerous unforced errors and conceding penalties at will.
Bristol were defeated 22-7 in their league encounter at the Kassam Stadium back in November but this time they made a dream start, taking the lead after only four minutes.
Welsh conceded a couple of soft penalties for the visitors to secure a line-out five metres out and Mama had little trouble in driving over for the try which Nicky Robinson was unable to convert.
Welsh suffered another early blow when their full-back, Seb Stegmann, departed with an injury to be replaced by Alan Awcock but despite this, they built up their first period of pressure and were rewarded with a try.
It was almost identical to Bristol's earlier effort, Trevett finished off a line-out drive for the try, which Ross converted to put his side in front against the run of play.
Within minutes, Welsh went further ahead. They were awarded a penalty deep inside their own 22, which they took quickly to catch the visitors on the back foot.
Nathan Morris slipped away, running 25 metres before feeding Scott, who showed excellent pace to hold off two Bristol defenders to score under the posts. Ross converted to give his side a 14-5 lead at the end of the first quarter.
After 30 minutes, Bristol suffered a massive setback when Jones was stretchered off with a serious leg injury with Mitch Eadie coming on as his replacement.
It got worse for the visitors as minutes later; Luke Baldwin was another injury casualty before Ross kicked a penalty with the last kick of the half for a 17-5 interval advantage.
After the restart a poor kick ahead from Riki Tupuna gifted the hosts a five-metre scrum. Bristol were then penalised for Welsh to choose an attacking line-out, with Kirwan driving over for the try which Ross again converted.
Bristol never looked like clawing back the deficit and with 10 minutes to go, Bristol flanker, Nick Koster was sin-binned with Ross kicking the resulting penalty before replacement Jarvis gave the visitors a glimmer of home with a late penalty.