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London Welsh’s bonus-point win over Ulster Ravens wasn’t just significant for breathing new life into the Dragons’ British & Irish Cup campaign – it also saw the long awaited return to action of Gordon Ross and Lee Beach.
The former Scotland international fly half made a 22 minute cameo appearance off the bench during Welsh’s 29-11 win over the Ravens, while Wales’ World Cup Sevens winning captain marked his comeback game by scoring the Exiles’ fifth and final try.
In all, the pair had been unavailable to head coach Phil Greening for a combined total of 18 weeks, but their return to Welsh colours last Saturday could not have been more perfectly timed as Welsh prepare for the Championship run in.
The Dragons face a big four weeks, kicking off with a trip to Bristol on Sunday before facing Bedford, Worcester and Nottingham, and after three months on the sidelines Ross can’t wait.
“They’re massive games and we need to try and build some momentum. Hopefully over the next two or three weeks I can really work on my match fitness, on and on off the pitch, so I’m sharp for these games and the play-offs,” said Ross, whose appearance against Ulster was his first since suffering a groin injury against Bristol at Old Deer Park on October 23.
The Dragons ran in five tries in a 39-14 victory that day, with Ross sending Welsh on their way with a try and a penalty, only to then hobble after just 18 minutes.
“It got my first try in a couple of years, so that was quite exciting, but I’d had a niggle for six to eight weeks before hand and sadly it just went in that game,” he said.
“I’d tweaked it early on in the game and I was hoping I’d be able to run it off, but it didn’t happen and I totally tore it. I knew at the time it was quite bad.
“I can’t thank the physios enough for coming in early every morning and looking after me, and also the rehab guys, particularly Lee [Eldridge], for being very helpful, giving me extra sessions and coming in at all hours just to make sure I’m back fit.”
The Dragons were also boosted last Saturday by the return of Beach to their back row, after six weeks out with a calf injury.
Beach, who captained Wales to Sevens World Cup glory in Dubai in 2009, played the full 80 minutes against Ulster and capped a fine display by crossing for Welsh’s fifth try to kill off any lingering hopes of a Ravens fight-back.
“To be honest I’m shocked with myself, I expected to be blowing at lot more than what I was, so I’m happy,” said Beach, who was encouraged by aspects of Welsh’s performance after back-to-back defeats to Bedford and Rotherham.
“With us it’s all about sticking to patterns in attack because the last couple of weeks we’ve gone off it and we haven’t really got the results. Against Ulster we stuck to our patterns and lucky we had a good result.
“Against Rotherham game we didn’t stick to our patterns, so there was a mindset going into the Ulster game. We needed a result to get back on track.”
Back on track, Welsh will hope to build on their victory over Ulster when they travel to Bristol on Sunday, but Beach is expecting a tough game at a ground where the Dragons lost twice last season.
“It’s never easy when you go to Bristol. We’ve got to build on the Ulster game, which was a good confidence booster for us, and hopefully we can get a result,” he said.
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