RugbyU: Exiles endure nightmare Premiership return

LONDON (AFP) - London Welsh's first match back in the English Premiership ended with a crushing 52-0 loss at home to Exeter on Sunday.

The Exiles conceded seven tries as south-west side Exeter got their Premiership campaign off to a flying start.

As a newly-promoted side, London Welsh - who in the 1970s were one of the strongest teams in England with Wales and British and Irish Lions stars such as JPR Williams, Gerald Davies, John Dawes, Mervyn Davies and John Taylor all playing for the club, were always strong favourites to finish in the lone relegation place.

However, Exiles coach Justin Burnell insisted his players had time to prove the prophets of doom wrong.

"The season is 10 months and we know what it's about," Burnell said. "We could have stayed in the Championship and played in front of 800 people, or we could play in the Premiership and put our hands up.

"It's pretty straight forward - we can go home and hide away, or we puff our chests out and put a smile back on our faces," he said. "We play Bath next so it doesn't get any easier, but we just have to look forward to that.

"It's 52-0 and we have nothing on the scoresheet. Maybe people will look at that and take us for granted, which may not be a bad thing for us."

Former England international Thomas Waldrom scored two first-half tries, with Dave Ewers, Sam Hill, Ian Whitten, Jack Arnott and Chrysander Botha also on the scoresheet as Exeter cruised to their highest Premiership win.

However, they were assisted by some weak defence from a London Welsh side featuring nine debutants including New Zealand World Cup-winning scrum-half Piri Weepu.

"We have to learn from this," said Burnell. "It's not a case of regrouping or those cliches, it's about learning from your mistakes and rectifying them.

"If you're a professional player, you have to make your tackles, make that final pass and hold on to the ball."

Exeter backs coach Ali Hepher was especially pleased by the performance of No 8 Waldrom, who joined from Leicester in pre-season.

"Thomas gave us what we're after - he's a rugby player and he combined well with Dave Ewers in the back row," Hepher said. "Tom has come in, he's been grounded and has worked hard in pre-season.

"We like rugby players here, we're not just one-directional. We have to consider all options in attack." j