Leeds Carnegie’s Premiership dreams are over for another year after they were beaten by two points over two legs in dramatic style by London Welsh at the Kassam Stadium.
If the despair belonged to Leeds, the unbridled joy certainly belonged to London Welsh, who will now get a shot at an immediate return to English rugby’s top flight.
Despite tries from Stevie McColl and Charlie Beech, Gordon Ross’s penalty proved decisive and deflated Leeds boss James Lowes said: “We didn’t do ourselves any favours in the game, but it is a game of percentages and one per cent more and we would have been in a really strong position.
“It was high-level rugby last week and we needed to back that up again this week, but unfortunately we just weren’t at the races.”
The visitors missed the chance to extend their seven-point aggregate lead when Glyn Hughes pulled a penalty from halfway wide of the posts after the Exiles had been penalised for standing up in the scrum.
Welsh opened the scoring in the eighth minute through Ross’s penalty in front of the posts after Hughes was penalised for holding on in the tackle.
Phil Nilsen then stole a Welsh defensive lineout in their own 22 and, after numerous phases, Leeds were awarded a penalty for holding on, but again Hughes pulled his attempt wide from 25 metres out.
Carnegie then butchered a good chance to score the game’s first try when Fred Burdon’s pass hit Beech and from the knock-on Welsh were able to clear their lines.
Lowes’s men were then turned over in their own 22 and, after numerous phases, Carl Kirwan broke through a gap in the Leeds defence to score the first touchdown.
Back came the visitors and from nothing McColl broke clear to race over for his ninth try of the season and Hughes converted to restore their aggregate lead.
Leeds were then penalised on their own 22-metre line after Jacob Rowan was caught in possession following a quick tap restart and former Scotland international Ross made no mistake from 17 metres out.
There was a let-off for Leeds at the start of the second half when Ross missed a kickable penalty on 30 metres after Ryan Burrows had been penalised for holding on.
After a lengthy stoppage because of an injury to Rob Vickerman, Justin Burnell’s men then won a penalty inside the 22 after Leeds went backwards at a scrum, but again Ross’s attempt flew wide.
Welsh drew level through Ross’s penalty after Leeds were penalised at the breakdown near their line.
But Carnegie wiped out any momentum that the Exiles had gained through that score when the monster boot of replacement Alex Lozowski landed the visitors’ first penalty of the afternoon from 40 metres.
The home side were then reduced to 14 men when Kirwan was sent to the sin-bin for obstructing McColl after he had chipped forward and Lozowski knocked over his second penalty of the match.
With just 20 minutes of the tie remaining, Leeds must have felt lady luck was on their side when Ross shanked another kickable penalty after they were penalised for collapsing the maul.
Then came the best move of the match. Following a fast break from Jonah Holmes, his offload found McColl, whose pass outside allowed prop Beech to rumble over in the corner and Lozowski kicked the extras.
But if Leeds thought they could finally start to breathe easy, back came Welsh and Seb Stegmann crossed over in the corner, Ross converting.
There was worse to come when Ollie Stedman burst through a hole in the Leeds defence to score the hosts’ third try of the match, and just one point separated the sides with seven minutes left.
Despite suspicions of a knock-on as Welsh rumbled forward, it was Leeds who were then penalised for not rolling away, and having been inconsistent all afternoon, Ross found his kicking boots and landed the penalty from 15 metres to give Welsh the crucial lead.
With Leeds trying to set up for a drop-goal to win the game, Loszowski dropped the ball and the game was lost.
Yorkshire’s wait for a Premiership representative now goes into a fourth year.
London Welsh: Awcock, Stegmann, May (c), Jewell, Scott, Ross, Keats (Cook 38), Trevett (Bristow 47), Morris (Vella 61), Edwards (Tideswell 58), Spencer (Quill 54), Corker, Browne (West 67), Kirwan, Stedman.
Leeds Carnegie: McColl, Holmes, Vickerman (Georgiou 47), Burdon, D. Doherty, Hughes (Lozowski 40), J. Doherty, Beech (Imiolek 73), Nilsen (Graham 61), Tussac (Hooper 73), Beck (Green 48), Myerscough, Sisi, Rowan (c), Burrows.
Referee: G Garner (RFU).