This home fixture against London Cornish on Saturday (17 December) would be Cobham 1st XV’s last match of 2022 and an opportunity to extend their winning run to seven games. Whilst they did so it was perhaps not in the manner they would have wished for in an extraordinary game of rugby at the Memorial Fields.
Support for the hosts was enhanced as the game followed on from the annual Xmas Lunch and, braving the freezing temperatures, the Cobham supporters enjoyed a great game of rugby. As the game ended there was a very wry suggestion from a Cobham supporter that the result was “never in doubt;” indeed, for the first 25 minutes of this match, as the home side maintained the form they had displayed in their last home fixture, that prediction looked wholly valid.
From the kick-off, Cornish were literally on the back foot as Cobham unleashed their back row of Fox, Davison and McQuade to go on defence-breaking runs that released centres Lynn and Stephen. Although a resulting lineout from a penalty was uncharacteristically lost, the advantage was regained from a strong Cobham scrum; having turned over possession and won the put-in, the pack drove to the try line allowing McQuade to score. Tom Farrelly made a difficult angle look easy to add the extras (7-0).
Cobham maintained the pressure by retaining possession and ensured the game was being played in the Cornish twenty-two. It was as if every Cobham player wanted to make their mark and a consistent feature of the drives was the extra yards being gained each time going into contact. In one of those drives, hooker Andy Murphy was supported by number Davison and they enabled winger Max Macdonald to break through the Cornish defence and touch down under the posts that Farrelly converted (14-0).
The pressure from the home side continued and credit to the visitors for withstanding the onslaught. As the final quarter of the first half drew to a close, Cornish started to display their own ball skills which culminated in back row forward Ed McCord going over for a well worked try (14-5). Penalties were then exchanged between Farrelly and Robjohn meaning the hosts went into the break nine points ahead (17-8). However, as another supporter suggested, Cobham were making heavy weather of a game they had started so strongly.
Even though Cobham had lost some of their early momentum, their set-piece play was dominant and no doubt reflected the hard work put in at training. Eventually that domination and those extra yards being gained provided Captain Ryan Saunders with an opportunity to put Penfold over in the corner. Farrelly once again defied the angle to secure the extra points (24-8). Never in doubt it was at this stage.
30 years ago this year, the IRFB increased the points scored for a try to five with a conversion adding an extra two. Any number of points for a score can make for an exciting game, but when a team is trailing by what appears to be a significant deficit, those awarded points can suddenly turn a game on its head. That is exactly what happened in this match.
Cobham lost Tom Davison to injury and Macdonald to a yellow card, before Robjohn kicked another a penalty. George Bromidge then cut the deficit with the visitors second try and with Robjohn adding the extras, the deficit was down to six (24-18). With just a converted try being the difference, Cobham were awarded a penalty in the Cornish half where Saunders took a tactical decision to extend the lead with three further points from Farrelly’s boot (27-18).
Cornish would need two scores and that is what they proceeded to do. Firstly, stalwart number eight Mark Osei-Tutu broke through to set up winger Matt Hakes before lock forward Adam Wheeler popped up on the wing to go over and put the visitors ahead for the first time (27-28) with five minutes remaining. ‘Never in doubt' had definitely become 'in doubt.'
Cobham now showed the enterprise and flair of their first half performance and with driving runs from Goddard and substitute Mario Zakakiotis, the opportunity was created for centre for Stephen to evade a tackle and crash over the in the corner. Despite Farrelly hitting the posts with his conversion, Cobham had retaken the lead (32-28) with the final score of the match.
The final whistle soon followed. Cornish will have been disappointed to have seen their fightback denied right at the death. Cobham were relieved to have achieved that seventh consecutive win that takes them to third place with a game in hand and an action packed second half to the season starting on 7 January away to Amersham & Chiltern.
Cobham 1st XV Squad:-
1. Chris Lippiatt
2. Andrew Murphy
3. Richard Nunn
4. Wesley Van Der Ploeg
5. Joe Godard
6. Tom Davison
7. Olly Fox
8. Jake McQuade
9. Ryan Saunders (Capt)
10. Tom Farrelly
11. Max MacDonald
12. Will Stephen
13. Gresham Lynn
14. Rory Penfold
15. Ollie Horton
16. Mario Zakakiotis
17. Doug Rodman
18. Tiernan White
Tries: McQuade, MacDonald, Penfold, Stephen
Conversions: Farrelly (3)
Penalties: Farrelly (2)