Cobham travelled to Hurlingham Park, Fulham confident, not only from their win the previous week against third placed Medway but also by 'The Hammers' surprise 52-0 defeat at the hands of Horsham. The final result probably suggests Hammersmith & Fulham don't travel well rather more than Cobham's confidence was misplaced, but the first half performance of the hosts on Saturday (9 April) was always going to be difficult to overhaul.
Played in bright sunshine and in front of a large crowd of supporters, both sides strived to gain the first advantage and this went to the home side as the full back ran from deep to set up Henry Martin to score in the corner (5-0). He probably broke too many tackles as far as the Cobham Director of Rugby and coaching staff were concerned, but this visitors responded quickly. After maintaining pressure on the Hammers line, with replacement scrum half Tiernan White directing quick traffic and following a drive from Captain Luke Bliss, White picked up to dive over the line, with Tom Farrelly’s conversion hitting the post (5-5).
It didn't seem likely at the time but that was to be Cobham's only score of the first half. The home side added to their tally with a brace of tries from Joe Carolan and one from back row forward Tom Proctor, which put The Hammers into a 24-5 lead at the break.
Cobham had without doubt been outplayed in the opening 40 minutes and before an enthusiastic home crowd, it could have been anticipated that The Hammers would run away with the contest. However, the second half was a wholly different game of rugby as the home side went flat and Cobham played to their strengths.
Ali Porter and Ben Joyce came on from the bench (Porter for his first run out since November) and within the first five minutes, Louis Porter secured a lineout ball and the pack drove forward that allowed Joyce to score, with Farrelly hitting the post from far out for the second time (24-10).
Taylor Burnett and Gresham Lynn on the Cobham wings had shown their potential in the first half and they both provided some excellent running lines in the second, as Cobham took control but it was the visitors pack who were going to provide the points as their next try came from prop Ryan Ajula (24-15).
Hammersmith & Fulham stung by two quick scores put together one of the best moves of the game with full back Pete Morris teeing up winger Tim Russell for a converted score (31-15). Cobham responded strongly with Joyce scoring an almost identical second try that Farrelly converted (31-22). The Cobham defence was certainly stronger in the second half but Carolan completed his hat-trick, which was quickly followed by winger Tim Russell assisting back row Matt Newman running over for another converted score (45-22).
It would have been completely understandable if Cobham's heads had gone down at this point but au contraire as Ajula drove over for his second try, which Farrelly converted (45-29). Then following a great run from back row Louis Porter, Lynn made it two tries in consecutive matches and make the final scoreline 45-34.
For the second consecutive match neither side kicked a penalty and nor were any yellow cards shown; it was a fast-flowing game of rugby well controlled by the referee. Captain Luke Bliss will have been pleased with the spirit shown by Cobham with a result leaving them mid-table with one fixture to play against Farnham after Easter.
Director of Rugby, Steve Pope said: “Rather an odd game today, very to and fro - we were both awful and great in patches. I can honestly say we are making improvements across the whole squad, this season has been an interesting one with far more positives than negatives.”
“I’m very pleased for the boys and the way we finished the game, and that the second half was much improved on the first. Credit to H&F - they have been worthy of their two victories over us this season. We will look forward to playing them next season. As for the squad today, the boys did us proud and I'm sure we will look to build on today's positives, with a big flourish on 23 April after a weekend off.”
Cobham 1st XV Squad:
1. Ryan Ajula
2. Ryan Bushell
3. Luke Bliss (Capt.)
4. Doug Rodman
5. Joe Goddard
6. Ben Keast
7. Olly Fox
8. Louis Porter
9. Tiernan White
10. Tom Farrelly
11. Taylor Burnett
12. Jonny Holmes
13. James MacDonald
14. Gresham Lynn
15. Rory Penfold
16. Ben Joyce
17. Ali Porter
18. Luke Flower
Tries: White, Ajula (2) Joyce (2), Lynn
Conversions: Farrelly (2)