Cobham’s 1st XV continued their winning run with a victory against bottom club Windsor on Saturday (14 January) but it was anything other than decisive. If Windsor continue to play with the flair and determination, displayed at the Memorial Grounds, they will certainly avoid relegation. It was a special occasion for Jake McQuade, who made his 100th appearance for the 1st XV, while Goddard, Radford and Farrelly also returned to the starting line-up.
It was somewhat disconcerting to see Windsor run out sporting a Savill's logo, but it only goes to confirm that organisation's strong link with grassroots rugby and it is perhaps a good opportunity to highlight Cobham's main sponsors, who are key to the club's success.
A Cobham score in the first minutes of a game has become something of a hallmark in recent matches and it was perhaps a testament to how this game was going to play out that successive drives and attacks from the hosts were withstood by the visitors.
You could see the determination of McQuade to mark his centenary with a score as he bulldozed his way down field but Windsor, who are celebrating their own centenary and had started the New Year with a decisive win against Beaconsfield last weekend, displayed a renewed confidence that belied their league position. Although both the Cobham lineout and scrum provided clean ball, meaning the visitors could not get out of their half in the opening twenty minutes, the hosts could not convert possession or territory into points.
Indeed, Windsor had the opening opportunity to score when they were awarded a penalty on the halfway line, but the kick at goal fell short of the target. There were some great individual displays from Cobham during this period; tackles from Zakaiotis, high ball collections from Allchurch and Penfold, and drives from Bliss. Finally the pressure from a team effort told and Cobham were on the scoreboard with a Will Stephen try, although Farrelly missed the conversion (5-0).
Windsor responded purposefully and were now the ones obtaining territorial advantage. They adopted the Cobham tactic and from a lineout, drove over for a converted try scored by prop Ross Carne (5-7). It was telling that within minutes Windsor had secured a further kickable penalty but instead chose to kick to touch looking to replicate that score. Cobham were able to turn over the resultant maul and as the half drew to a close, Horton and Penfold provided examples of the penetrating runs that were to feature more regularly in the second half.
Cobham had not trailed at half-time since 19 September, when they eventually lost to Hammersmith and Fulham, so Director of Rugby Steve Pope's pep talk was going to be key. As a consequence, the second half would see the hosts playing a far more expansive game, upping the speed and evasive running that has proved to be so effective this season. Captain Ryan Saunders harnessed the back line, who were consistently breaking Windsor's defence, although the moves could not be turned into points until Farrelly converted a penalty to give Cobham a one-point advantage (8-7).
As Cobham's dominance grew, Penfold fed Allchurch for the all-important next score that Farrelly converted and open-up a two-score lead (15-7). Horton's pace was outstripping the Windsor defence, but he could not break the line and conversely, in a half in which the backline was making their own, the next try was provided by a successful lineout and drive resulting in Zakaiotis touching down (20-7). Windsor, to their credit, responded with their own pressure and in the final minute scored a consolation try through centre Angus Marshall. Final score, 20-12.
This tough match may have been a salutary warning shot across the bows for Cobham, who travel to Beaconsfield this weekend looking to extend this winning run in the league to ten matches. If the game plays out anything like the previous encounter this season, it will be well worth the trip.
Perhaps the most surprising league results on Saturday were the extremely tight games between Fullerians and Hammersmith & Fulham, the latter winning by just a conversion (5-7), and Aylesbury versus Old Priorians, which Aylesbury won 43-29. This means that Cobham move up to 2nd place in the league table.
All support will be hugely welcome on the road this weekend. However, if you can’t get to Beaconsfield, get yourselves down to the Memorial Ground to see the 2nd XV fixture between Cobham and Chobham.
Cobham 1st XV Squad:-
1. Ryan Aujla
2. Mario Zakaiotis
3. Luke Bliss
4. Will O'Leary
5. Joe Goddard
6. John Radford
7. Ollie Fox
8. Jake McQuade
9. Ryan Saunders (Capt.)
10. Tom Farrelly
11. Ollie Horton
12. Will Stephen
13. James MacDonald
14. Rory Penfold
15. Dan Allchurch
16. Andrew Murphy
17. Gresham Lynn
18. Max MacDonald
Tries: Stephen, Allchurch, Zakaiotis
Other Senior Results:
Friday 13 January - Cobham Allstars 21-12 Esher Vets
Saturday 14 January - Cobham 2nd XV 26-12 Old Reigatians