Welwyn saw off a spirited St Albans’ side and scored five tries in a good performance on a bitterly cold afternoon at Hobbs Way. The bonus point win takes Welwyn into second place in the league, just a point behind leaders, Grasshoppers.
St Albans were much improved from the fixture earlier in the season and gave the Welwyn supporters a few anxious moments when they got back to within 9 points with just five minutes left to play. A second try by outstanding back row forward Josh Milton finally secured a deserved win for the home side.
Honours were even for the first 7 minutes of the game, but Welwyn were first on the scoreboard. A scything break by centre Aaron Chandler created space for Harry Di-Lieto to score with Rory Harcourt adding a good conversion, his first of five successful kicks in the match. On 20 minutes, a well-executed lineout catch and drive saw skipper Will Freeston crash over to extend Welwyn’s lead to 12-0.
St Albans responded well and dominated the last period of the first half. They were eventually rewarded with a try in the corner by hooker Will Batchelor and then a deliberate knock on presented an easy three points for the visitors and Welwyn’s lead was cut to 12-8 on the stroke of half time.
Welwyn’s coaches used the bench well in response to the changing pattern of the game in the second half, with replacements Henry Fee, James Parr and Dave Francis all getting game time. Six minutes into the second half, Welwyn extended their lead with Josh Milton’s first try and an excellent touchline conversion by Harcourt took the score to 19-8. A St Albans’ prop was then yellow carded and scrums went uncontested for 10 minutes. On 17 minutes, full back Harry Gillespie scored the individual try of the match. There seemed no space at all as Welwyn moved the ball right, but the elusive Gillespie stepped past four defenders to score a remarkable try and secure the bonus point. Harcourt again added the extras.
St Albans then enjoyed their best period of the match, despite losing their outstanding full back, Oliver Askew-Fountain. The referee eventually lost patience with the Welwyn pack after a succession of scrums on their line and awarded a penalty try to take the score to 26-15. A Harcourt penalty on 32 minutes gave Welwyn a bit more breathing space, but St Albans were not done yet. With injury time approaching, the visitors scored wide out left to bring the score to 29-20, before Milton’s second try finally settled the contest.
The Neem Tree Man of the Match was Aaron Chandler. Welwyn travel to Hackney Marshes on Saturday for a potentially tricky fixture against Old Streetonians.
Updated 12:01 - 11 Jan 2018 by Rob Picken