Worcester defeat can inspire Welsh :Ma’asi

 London Welsh can draw inspiration from their narrow defeat to Championship leaders Worcester, says hooker Vili Ma’asi ahead of the visit of his former club Cornish Pirates.

The Exiles go into Sunday’s clash at Old Deer Park (2pm) looking to avoid a third straight defeat following back-to-back defeats to Bedford and Worcester which have seen Welsh slip to fourth in the table.

Worcester ended the Exiles’ unbeaten start to the season at Old Deer Park last Sunday when they edged a 33-29 thriller, but former Pirate Ma’asi believes Welsh now know that they can live with the promotion favourites.

“Everyone knows Worcester are the team to beat and although we didn’t get the result we wanted, we now know that we can beat them,” said Ma’asi.

“We made a few mistakes and a created a few opportunities that we didn’t finish but come the play-offs we know can beat them. That was the most positive thing to come out of the game for us.”

But it won’t be just a desire to make a swift return to winning ways that will motivate the Exiles on Sunday, as Welsh will also be keen to make amends for their 22-3 defeat at the hands of the Pirates earlier in the season.

“Collectively that was one of our worst games. We didn’t perform very well,” added Ma’asi, who is looking forward to facing his former club.

The Tonga international hooker spent six seasons on the south west coast, after being spotted playing for his country against Wales in 2001, during which time he helped the club rise from National Three South to the Championship.

“I had a fantastic time down there. The experience, the people, the club – everyone was very helpful. I count it as one of the best times ever in the whole of my rugby career,” he said.

After being approached by an agent following Tonga’s defeat to Wales in November 2001 at the Millennium Stadium, Ma’asi would not return home with the rest of his team-mates at the end of the tour. Instead, a few trial games for the Pirates was enough to persuade the club to sign the hooker.

“It was difficult; I was away from home for the first time, but I was very keen to play overseas. The opportunity came at the right time for me and I took it,” he said.

Promotion winning campaigns became something of the norm for Ma’asi during his time at the Pirates, but his playing highlight for the club would come at Twickenham in the EDF National Trophy Final.

It was April 2007 and the Pirates found themselves trailing 16-6 to the Exeter Chiefs, until Ma’asi’s try inspired a comeback to help the Pirates win by three.

“It was one of my best tries in my career. It was quick ball from the ruck and I picked it up and came through. Their hooker tackled me first and I went through him, and then their prop hit me as well and I was surprised that I was still going,” he said.

“About two metres from the line their scrum half and lock tried to stop me, but my momentum carried me to the tryline. It was one of the highlights of my career because Pirates helped me a lot – it was repaying them before I left the club.”

It was the perfect parting gift, for after six seasons Ma’asi realised his ambition of playing Premiership rugby with a move to Leeds.

Despite his best efforts though, he couldn’t prevent Leeds from being relegated, although they would bounce straight back up at the first attempt under Neil Back.

A neck injury would sideline Ma’asi for the first four months of Leeds’ promotion push, with his comeback coming against London Welsh at Headingley – an occasion he marked with a “lucky try”.

After three seasons at Leeds he joined London Welsh in the summer, where he teamed up with fellow Tonga internationals Epi Taione and Hudson Tonga’uiha.

“Since I’ve been here in this country I’ve never played with any Tongans. I’ve played with Fijians and Samoans, but never Tongans. So I’m enjoying it – it’s an a

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