This was an extraordinary game of rugby for both teams, which ended in disappointment for Cobham and was the ultimate game of two halves. Hammersmith & Fulham went into the match having won eight of their previous 11 games, sitting fourth in the league. However, no one watching the opening ten minutes would have recognised that record. It was to Cobham's credit and their attacking play dictated that the Hammers Director of Rugby was required to make three substitutions within the opening ten minutes, as they found themselves two tries down.
The initial Cobham score came from a well-rehearsed backs move with Captain Ryan Saunders missing out centre George Tunnacliffe to release full back Finley Savill to break the defence and set-up winger Rory Penfold to score in the corner (5-0). That early score obviously disrupted the visitors and their own running style of rugby and it wasn't helped when Farrelly broke through to feed centre Johnny Holmes to score under the posts, which Farrelly converted (12-0).
All the match thus far had been played out in the visitor's half and it took the substitutions to enable them to start playing with more confidence and for the first time they put Cobham under pressure on their own twenty two. A quick tap penalty and subsequent lineout drive were repelled on the line with prop Ryan Aujla putting in a try saving tackle.
Having regained possession Cobham took the game back to the visitor's half and following an excellent recovery by second row Louis Porter from a kick ahead he was able to release Penfold for his second try, with Farrelly adding the extras (19-0). The visitors responded strongly and it needed another try saving tackle from Captain Saunders to retain their three-score lead at the halfway stage.
Cobham had been in this situation previously this season, when they had the lead against Camberley only for that to be lost. The second half saw Hammersmith & Fulham slot back into their attacking style of play, avoiding the handling errors that had plagued their first half performance. Initially it was a try for their number eight Harry Scar (19-5) that put them onto the score sheet and with Cobham going down to 14 with a yellow card infringement by Farrelly, the visitors took advantage of the extra man with winger Rich Vaughan powering through and Joe Carolan converting to take them within a score (19-12).
Vaughan then took further advantage by breaking the defence to bring the scores level with a converted try under the posts (19-19). Despite Farrelly returning to the action, a second yellow card offence for substitute prop Chris Lippiatt kept Cobham at 14 men and this time it was winger James Lowe who went over for The Hammers, with Carolan converting and putting the visitors ahead for the first time (19-26).
Full credit to Cobham for coming back strongly as they put together a sustained period of pressure which must have seen every forward attempt to break the try line. After what seemed an eternity, it was prop Luke Bliss who crossed for the bonus point converted try that would have represented a final score of 26-26, which could have been argued a fair result.
However, Hammersmith & Fulham had three minutes to respond and that enabled full back Bryce Morgan to run through to touch down for a match-winning converted try (26-33) and moving them to third in the league.
Director of Rugby Steve Pope said after the match: “I think that has to be one of the most frustrating days in my time at club. We started so well and to be 19-0 up at half-time we were looking more like the side I know we are capable of being.”
“It honestly felt as if the lads did exactly the opposite of everything we discussed at the break. We totally let ourselves down and threw the visitors very easy get out of jail cards, which they gratefully accepted. I would still feel as frustrated if we had managed to hang on for a 26-all draw.”
“I can only hope the lads don't feel as frustrated by that second half as I do. There was so much to be positive about in the first half; quite literally like two different sides from our first and second half performances. We will have to take a breath and I very much hope respond next week with both the 1s and 2s away to Guildford for another tough fixture for both sides.”
Prior to the game, at the Club Christmas Lunch, President Ian Thomas was able to present Tom Farrelly with a club 100 Tie and a framed photo of some of his 100 games for Cobham’s First XV.
Farrelly, who plays Fly Half and Centre, made his debut in the 2013/14 season off the bench versus Gravesend on 9 November; his full debut followed against Hove a month later. He was nominated Players' Player of the Season in 2018 and was Vice-Captain in 2019.
During the eight seasons, Tom has scored a remarkable 839 points including 30 tries.*
*Many thanks to Tom Schofield for the invaluable statistics.
Cobham 1st XV Squad:
1. Ryan Aujla
2. Andrew Murphy
3. Luke Bliss
4. Wesley Van Der Ploeg
5. Doug Rodman
6. Nathan Spratt
7. Olly Fox
8. Louis Porter
9. Ryan Saunders (Captain)
10. Tom Farrelly (100 Caps)
11. Max Macdonald
12. Jonny Holmes
13. George Tunnacliffe
14. Rory Penfold
15. Finlay Savill
Tries: Penfold (2) Holmes, Bliss
Conversions: Farrelly (3)