Ebbw Vale made sure they’ll be no London Welsh complacency when the Exiles open their Championship campaign at Rotherham Titans next Sunday.
Welsh needed a late Barney Maddison converted try to salvage a 24-24 draw against the Principality Premiership champions at Imber Court, but for head coach James Buckland it could prove the perfect work out before a tough trip to Clifton Lane.
“It was a good leveller for us. we’ve trained very well and even played some exciting stuff today but the reality is that if we can’t look after the ball it doesn’t matter how many times we break a team down, you don’t convert and you allow the opposition to stay in the game," he said.
"The guys were really disappointed afterwards but the big positive is that we know we can play a lot better than that if we look after the ball.
“Ebbw Vale were big and strong and they fought for everything especially at the breakdown, but it was our errors which invited them into the game. Ultimately we need to iron out our work at the breakdown.
"We allowed them to put their hands on our ball, we were reactive rather than proactive and we will focus our fix ups here. Our turnover rate was far too high and killed our attacking momentum.
“The boys generally felt comfortable defending high phases, although we had four lapses and conceded four tries. Those lapses in concentration are to be expected during a tough pre-season, but won’t be acceptable next week.
“If Championship points had been on offer today we’d have been really disappointed, but fortunately there weren’t and it could now prove to be a huge positive for us because there won’t be a hint of complacency going to Rotherham next week.”
Welsh found themselves two tries down at the end of the first quarter, with a charge down leading to the Steelmen’s opening score before the visitors found a hole in the Exiles’ midfield.
Tries from Adam Kwasnicki and James Lewis, however, ensured Welsh stayed in touch at the break trailing 19-12.
Chris Levesley’s second try of the game left the Exiles once again playing catch up as we entered the final quarter, but Kristian Phillips’ touch down in the corner set up a tense finish and a perfectly executed catch and drive saw Maddison force his way over, and allowed Glyn Hughes to level a hard fought and competitive match.
“The composure we showed to get back in the game was pleasing. We forced a lot of rugby in the first half which invited pressure upon ourselves, which will really hurt us when playing league rugby, but we wised up and kept ourselves in the match,” said Buckland, for whom there were still plenty of positives not least when the Exiles managed to keep hold of the ball.
“We did some really good things with ball in hand, which we will continue to encourage, but unfortunately too much was in our half, especially in the first half.
“We executed our strikes well, but it was just a case of that final pass once we’d got in behind them, or having the contact effectiveness to keep hold of the ball, which was missing.
“Championship rugby is all about territory and building pressure, so we’ve got to make sure we put ourselves in better positions to build that pressure and that we react to the space when it’s available rather than trying to force it, which is what we were guilty of today.
"The lads know that I’m sure they’ll now be even more focused going into a big contest at Rotherham.”