'Friday Night Lights' were delayed a week but well worth the wait as Cobham travelled to Motspur Park for their encounter with KCS Old Boys (19 November).
Scrum half Ryan Saunders returned from injury to captain a team keen to demonstrate that they could retain leads for 80 minutes. Whilst the final score suggested that had been achieved with ease that wasn't how the Cobham supporters who made the trip will have described a pulsating game.
From the kick-off Cobham dominated in the scrum and within five minutes a successful pick-up from number 8 Jake McQuade had released Saunders to score in the corner (0-5). Cobham maintained the pressure but when the home side finally secured possession from a charged down kick, winger Jacques Birch stormed down the line and broke three tackles to score under the posts (7-5).
Director of Rugby Steve Pope had to rearrange the scrum when McQuade was forced off with his second hamstring injury of the season. Ben Joyce came on, with Luke Bliss moving to the second row and Doug Rodman taking the vacant back row position.
Cobham retained their advantage in the scrums but were wasting their possession as final passes were not completed. However, they benefited when a yellow card was given for a high tackle to KCS Old Boys full back Will Kebble and the visitors took advantage of their extra man with a pushover try for Rodman, Ant Braithwaite adding the extras (7-12).
KCS hit straight back as substitute Jake McGarey tore through the Cobham defence to score in the corner to level the scores (12-12) before Braithwaite kicked an all-important penalty to give Cobham a narrow half-time lead (12-15).
With the home side restored to 15 they put Cobham on the defensive, as they spun the ball down the line and restored full back Kebble and centre Ellis Hook created chances at every opportunity. It took a relieving kick from Braithwaite to gain the territorial advantage Cobham needed and from the resultant lineout, despite initially losing possession, back row Louis Porter recovered the ball for a slap down try (12-20).
Steve Pope took the opportunity to utilise his substitutes with Jonny Holmes moving to full back and Penfold to the wing, but it was KCS through Hook who secured the next score as he broke the line and fed Birch for his second try (17-20). Cobham responded and when Max McDonald's fierce tackle created a turnover opportunity, the penalty from Braithwaite extended the visitors lead (17-23) with 12 minutes remaining.
KCS Old Boys were not going to allow that state of play and on returning to Cobham's twenty-two, Saunders was somewhat harshly adjudged to have tip tackled and sent to the sin bin. Prop Chris Lippiatt was yellow carded soon after for not being ten metres that prevented an inevitable try. The home side took advantage of their greater numbers as prop Benoit Israel ran over, and with the conversion added KCS went ahead for only the second time (24-23).
It was going to need a monumental effort from Cobham, down to 13 men, but that is what was achieved as a rolling maul and quick lineout enabled hooker Andrew Murphy to score (24-28). With the final minutes counting down and Cobham back to 15, they withstood the pressure from the home side before Penfold intercepted on the halfway line to run in for the decisive try that Braithwaite converted. Final score 24-35.
Pope said after the match: “Firstly, really pleased for lads who, in the end, ground out a decent win against a side that like to sling it around as much as we do. KCS are dangerous in broken field and we didn't get our balance of play right tonight.”
“I'm sure it was a great game for the neutral, but I feel we could have possibly got more from it, as we left at least 15 points out there. I’m not sure we are getting our game management right but we are very close to clicking.”
“As I say, always a great and well contested competitive fixture against a good set of guys. KCS is a lovely club and Friday night football is exciting for everyone. We will need to improve as we head to Medway after next week’s break. Well done to all the lads tonight and we look forward to the return fixture later in the season.”
Cobham 1st XV Squad:
1. Chris Lippiatt
2. Andrew Murphy
3. Luke Bliss
4. Wesley Van Der Ploeg
5. Doug Rodman
6. Nathan Spratt
7. Louis Porter
8. Jake McQuade
9. Ryan Saunders (Captain)
10. Ant Braithwaite
11. Max MacDonald
12. Brandon Bowden
13. James MacDonald
14. Tiernan White
15. Rory Penfold
Tries: Saunders, Rodman, Porter, Murphy, Penfold
Conversions: Braithwaite (2)
Penalties: Braithwaite (2)