Cobham’s 1st XV squad travelled to Aylesbury RFC on Saturday (11 March) aware that with just two points separating them from league leaders Hammersmith & Fulham, their promotion hopes rested on this result. They would have the opportunity to play this game on the only other AGP in the league, with a covered spectator stand to boot.
Aylesbury RFC, or the Ayrs as they are known, are also new to this league and have enjoyed a good season, but were still smarting from their last-minute defeat to Cobham in the season's opening match (36-31) that they were looking to avenge.
Aylesbury enjoy strong support from the local villages and there was a packed clubhouse for their last league match of the season. Despite that support, Cobham grinded their way through several phases before back row forward Rodman went over for an unconverted try (0-5). The home side looked to hit back straight away with a backline response that released winger Jonty Charlier, but he was halted by the first of a number of strong tackles from try scorer Rodman.
Andrew Murphy, who had debuted at number eight in the recent Old Haberdashers game, reprieved that role in this match. He made a number of breaks and supporting runs, offloading with agility. In the absence of Goddard, there were opportunities for Westgarth-Taylor, Van Der Ploeg and Fox to secure lineout ball on a windy afternoon that played havoc with throw-ins.
The visitors then lost their prop Chris Lippiatt to a yellow card for an infringement in their own twenty-two, but despite the extra man and the possession, the Ayrs were not able to break the line as Cobham put-up a staunch defence. However, as the pressure grew it finally fell to Aylesbury number eight Kazeem Olayenka to crash over the Cobham try line to tie the score (5-5), with fly half Shearer unable to convert.
Cobham's centre Luke Flower was using his evasive running style to good effect and despite the swirling wind, full back Dan Allchurch and winger Ollie Horton were retrieving high balls and taking the game to the home side. Eventually a penalty was awarded when Aylesbury were deemed offside that Luke Flower converted (5-8).
That would have been a fair scoreline as the game headed for half-time, but as Cobham (literally) took their eye off the ball Aylesbury found two opportunities to score in the final three minutes. Firstly, scrum half Will Andrews went over for a converted try (12-8) before full back Evan Davies completed a thrilling score that he started with a break down the line. The move continued through three pairs of hands before Davies took the final pass and race in under the posts (19-8).
Cobham retired to the clubhouse to regroup, unaware that in the other top-of-the-table clash Amersham & Chiltern were also behind 7-19 to London Cornish.
The eventual scoreline would confirm that Cobham had the better of the second half with more possession and territory. This resulted in Murphy claiming a try, following a nudge kick through from Flower, which he also converted to (19-15). However, dominating possession and territory was not necessarily going to make the final difference.
As Cobham continued to dominate, further opportunities came their way only for dropped passes and too many penalties being given away close to the Aylesbury line. To make matters worse, a Cobham penalty attempt just shaved the posts. With the majority of the match now being played in the Aylesbury half, it was against the run of play when Ayrs centre Evan Wakelam picked up on a loose ball to score and extend their advantage (24-15).
The visitors now needed to score twice as the clock headed for 80 minutes, but there was only time for one fine try; winger Horton athletically collected a kick ahead and linked up with centre Flower, to enable him to score and convert. Final score, 24-22.
The final scores in the other top-of-the-table games confirmed that Hammersmith & Fulham would gain promotion, but there is consolation for Cobham in knowing that they would finish the season in their best league position in this 6th league level since 2009/10 coupled with the opportunity against Beaconsfield next week to have scored more points than the 85 gained in the curtailed 2019/20 season.
Cobham 1st XV Squad:-
1. Chris Lippiatt
2. Ben Falla
3. Ryan Aujla
4. Luke Westgarth-Taylor
5. Wesley Van Der Ploeg
6. Doug Rodman
7. Ollie Fox
8. Andrew Murphy
9. Ryan Saunders (Capt.)
10. Fin Savill
11. Ollie Horton
12. Luke Flower
13. James MacDonald
14. Rory Penfold
15. Dan Allchurch
16. Jamie Yorke
17. Will White
18. Will Stephen
Tries: Rodman, Murphy, Flower
Conversions: Flower (2)