TOP flight rugby was given a warm reception in Oxford yesterday and fans say the support can only get better.
An estimated 6,850 rugby union fans came to see new local team London Welsh play Leicester Tigers in their first home game of the Premiership season.
But the freshly promoted home side lost 13-38 to the nine-time English champions at the Kassam Stadium .
Martin John, chairman of the London Welsh Supporters Club, said: “The stadium was magnificent.
“There was a good turnout and the crowds can now only grow as people realise what great rugby they can see.
“Having premiership rugby in Oxford is ideal. There are a lot of Welsh people in the area, hundreds of students, and lots of rugby clubs.”
The Kingston-based club was promoted to the Aviva Premiership earlier this year, but had to fight a ruling which found it did not meet the criteria for top level rugby.
David Parry, 50 from Witney, said: “When they got promoted it was a fantastic opportunity to go and see top flight rugby in Oxford.
“They always say Oxford is more of a rugby town than a football town but we will see.”
Another fan, Aaron Lee, 23, from Brize Norton, said: “We are pretty excited. It’s the first time there has been a team we want to watch in the vicinity.”
Oxford City Council leader Bob Price is a longstanding London Welsh fan and said: “It was a good crowd and there was a very good atmosphere in the ground.
“Obviously there was a lot of support for the Leicester Tigers, but there was a good home support for London Welsh.
“I am sure there will be more support for the club because they are an interesting side with some good players.”
London Welsh fan Dan Lewis , 27, from Hemel Hempstead, said: “First impressions of the ground were very good. The parking was fantastic and it’s lovely to have such a fantastic facility.
“I’m hoping as the season goes on we will gain more local support. Our crowds last season were 700 and I’m hoping this year we will at least double that.”
Scores of fans gathered at The Priory pub before the 2pm kickoff. The next home match is on Sunday, September 16, against Exeter Chiefs.