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Cobham's second half heroics can't prevent defeat to Ironsides

This was Cobham's second clash with league leaders Battersea Ironsides at the Memorial Grounds this season, as the Ironsides pitch was unplayable. Having ‘home advantage’ would eventually assist Cobham as the scoreline does not fully convey the significant periods of the game, especially in the second half when there was nothing between the two teams.

With Ironsides having created a large lead before half-time (0-29) Cobham were always going to struggle, but Director of Rugby Billy Davison will have been pleased with the spirit shown by the squad, running in three tries and 'winning' the second half (19-17). Sam Meehan made his 1st XV debut on the wing, while prop Luke Bliss made a welcome return.

Ironsides have five senior teams in addition to their VETs and Under 23 squad, plus one of the largest mini sections in the country, who hold a Guinness book of records for the largest rugby tour in 2019 with over 300 players and coaches. So, it is perhaps not surprising that they top the league, having only lost four matches all season.

The visitors scored within minutes of the kick-off when a lineout was won easily and a soft try conceded. Ironsides had the majority of the possession and penalties, and took a kickable opportunity to make it 0-8. After the opening 15 minutes, it was a relief that Cobham's defence prevented a further score before they clawed their way into their opponents' territory as second row Luke Westgarth-Taylor came close to breaking the line.

Ironsides hit back but, despite eight phases of play, they could not get over. They then won a lineout, before driving over for their second try, which was converted (0-15). Murphy was then yellow-carded for an infringement, and Ironsides took advantage of their extra man; a tap and go penalty resulted in a score for their blindside flanker, and the successful conversion put clear daylight on the scoreboard (0-22).

Cobham then had their best period of the half, exercising constant pressure on the visitors' line and whilst it appeared Ironsides had taken their foot off the pedal that is not to take away the shift that Cobham were putting in. Full back Joe Wagg always looked dangerous and Louis Porter was having another great, but no sooner had Murphy returned to the pitch than Cobham lost Farmer to the sin bin and Ironsides finished the half with a bonus point try that was converted (0-29).

Cobham had it all to do and started strongly following the restart. After seeing the ball knocked-on as they crossed the line for the first time, they won the resulting scrum and Bliss scored on his return (5-29), as Will Stephen's conversion attempt just shaved the post.

That score restored confidence for Cobham and set the scene for a different half of rugby. Although it was Ironsides who secured the next try when their winger kicked ahead and a penalty soon followed that enabled the visitors to extend the lead (5-36). After Hebbes went off injured, with Franks coming on in his place, he soon sold a dummy and offloaded to Porter that eventually enabled Murphy to score and Stephen converted (12-36).

Wagg set up the next Cobham score, by gaining territory and putting Farmer into space who in turn provided Porter with an opportunity. Although he could not break the defence, from the resulting ruck, the ball passed down the line allowing Wagg to finish what he had started, with Stephen adding the extras (19-36).

If that had been the final score it would have been a fair reflection of the game but Ironsides are not league leaders without reason. A scrum in the Cobham twenty-two allowed their number eight to pick up and score 19-41, before they finished the match with a virtuoso score from their winger kicking ahead and collecting the ball to touch down in the corner. Final score 19-46.

Gravesend's game was postponed and is now scheduled to be played this weekend when Cobham have an international break, but London Cornish won against Sutton & Epsom, who are Cobham's next opponents away on Saturday 16 March.

Cobham 1st XV Squad:-

1. Ryan Aujla

2. Andrew Murphy

3. Luke Bliss

4. Luke Westgarth-Taylor

5. Hugh Farmer

6. Ollie Fielding

7. Olly Fox

8. Louis Porter

9. Ryan Saunders (Capt.)

10. Will Stephen

11. Sam Meehan

12. Jonny Holmes

13. Will Hebbes

14. Rory Penfold

15. Joe Wagg

Substitutes:

16. Ben Joyce

17. Felix Lowe

18. Max Franks

Scorers:

Tries: Bliss, Murphy, Wagg

Conversions: Stephen (2)




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