Cobham lost the previous weeks away fixture to Old Priorians 36-21 as a consequence of conceding a 22-point deficit inside the first quarters. The Old Priorian's match report can be found here but it doesn't do justice to the fight back the Cobham team achieved with five members of the team making their debuts. However, sadly, a similar 'twenty minute' period was also going to feature in this fixture against Hammersmith & Fulham.
Cobham knew this home fixture against The Hammers was going to be a tough match, with their opponents having firmly established themselves as league leaders with emphatic back-to-back wins of 87-5 and 87-0 against Windsor and Beaconsfield respectively. That said those results didn't particularly intimidate Cobham, as although both matches last season had been lost, they had been hard fought with final score lines of 26-33 (home) and 45-34 (away).
After a minutes silence for The Queen was recorded, there was a debut on the wing for Caleb Boddington and a return on the bench after eight years (that might be a Cobham record or indeed a national record?) for his 124th first team appearance for prop Richard Nunn.
Cobham started strongly with number 8 Jake McQuade driving over as only Jake can, and with fly half Luke Flower converting (7-0) Hammersmith & Fulham found themselves trailing for the first time this season. Cobham lost MacDonald to a yellow card for an adjudged high tackle and soon after the visitors' hooker drove over for an unconverted try (7-5). Despite being a man down, Cobham extended their lead to 10-5 with a well taken penalty by Flower.
Cobham's scrums were strong, Rodman, Goddard and Porter were securing good lineout ball and the team were growing in confidence as they maintained possession and territory. However, in what was to be termed '20 minutes of madness' a Cobham backline move was intercepted by centre Joe Carolan for a try he converted (10-12). The visitors lead was extended by a well taken score from Winger James Lo (10-17) followed swiftly by a cross kick out to winger Ed Haynes to make it 10-24.
Porter stole possession from the kick-off to provide a brief respite but although the visitors were to see a try disallowed they finished that twenty minutes with another Lo try in the corner converted by Carolan (10-31). Carolan then ran in under the posts as the whistle blew for half time, giving The Hammers a comfortable advantage (10-38).
Having conceded 33 points in that twenty minute period could very easily have resulted in a lack lustre display in the second half, but it is a tribute to the Cobham players and coaching staff that their response was impressive, ensuring that they played to their strengths, retained possession and put the visitors under pressure. That pressure eventually resulted in winger Rory Penfold running over for a try (15-38).
Frustrated by Cobham's second half dominance, The Hammers Tim Russell picked up on a loose ball to restore the differential (15-43) before Alex Spicer brought up the half-century with a converted try (15-50). Carolan scored his hat-trick (15-57) and a Russell intercept under the posts took the score to 15-64. Penfold scored his second and a consolation try for Cobham before the final whistle. Final score 20-64.
The last two weeks have seen Cobham play two of the tougher opponents they will face this season. This weekend (Saturday 24 September) they will travel to London Cornish, who have won two of their three games this season.
Director of Rugby Steve Pope said: "A very disappointing experience, if you take out the 20 minutes in the first half and last 15 of the second. We were not at the races. Credit where it's due, as H&F are a very good side and probably the best club blazers in the league."
"You can see which side has had consistency in selection. They are good for their league position but we look forward to the return fixture and I hope making a better account of ourselves over the full 80 minutes. I would like to say a big well done to all our lads, especially those on debut or returning to the side after breaks."
"We are in a transitional season and lots of positives to build on. We will get there, when we get more consistent in selection, and I hope with availability to train and play. On to London Cornish, which is always a tough test; we go again."
Cobham 1st XV Squad:-
1. Chris Lippiatt
2. Ryan Aujla
3. Luke Bliss (Captain)
4. Luke Westgarth-Taylor
5. Doug Rodman
6. Louis Porter
7. Ben Keast
8. Jake McQuade
9. George Pickersgill
10. Luke Flower
11. Caleb Boddington
12. Johnny Holmes
13. James MacDonald
14. Rory Penfold
15. Will Stephen
16. Richard Nunn
17. Joe Goddard
18. Ed Shelbourne
Tries: McQuade, Penfold (2)