RUGBY Welsh suffered a narrow defeat to Midlands 5 West (South) table toppers Birmingham Exiles, losing out 18-21.
The result was a crucial one for the visitors, who clinched promotion and in the process, hampered Welsh’s hopes of finishing in a promotion spot.
It proved another close encounter between the two, with Exiles also winning the reverse fixture 21-15 back in December.
Welsh however, opened the scoring inside the opening minute to stun the league leaders.
The first points of the game came about through a scrum in midfield, with the Bond brothers combining well to send through winger Anthony Reynolds to crash over the line.
Exiles levelled around the 15 minute mark, and once they had secured their opening try, the quality in their ranks and their desire to go ahead was evident.
Both sides battled it out with some big hits being felt in the middle of the park, with the game failing to pick up any pace – not helped by a number of sin bins for both teams.
Against the odds, Welsh went back ahead through Glenn Bond’s penalty, putting them 8-5 in front at half-time.
The second-half began with an early sin bin for a Welsh player, which immediately allowed the Exiles to level from the resulting penalty.
From there, the momentum swung into the visitors favour.
A couple of quick-fire tries followed with the hosts still down by a player, whilst Lorenzo Galleno – a key figure during the game for Welsh – suffered a head injury.
Welsh were showing plenty of fight and scored in the corner for an unconverted try thanks to Jay Ellerington, scoring again through Reynolds either side of an Exiles penalty.
It was not enough to rescue the game, and Birmingham Exiles held on to seal their promotion.
The result places even more importance on this Saturday’s visit to Birmingham Civil Service, who sit in second, six points above Welsh.