Cobham’s 1st XV squad came into this match following a disappointing defeat at Old Reigatians, so were looking to reboot their season in this home fixture against long-term rivals London Cornish, who have followed Cobham from London South 1 to Regional Thames 2 to Regional 2 South East.
There were welcome returns in the back row for Tom Davison and Jake McQuade, as Cobham looked to extend their unbeaten run against Cornish to seven matches across four seasons. The last time Cobham lost to Cornish was in the final game of the 2018/19 season, when they were trounced 67-24.
The opening ten minutes saw each side sparring with each other, with no overall control for either team. A steal at the scrum from captain Ryan Saunders, who linked with Fox and Davison, was a precursor for the opening try, which saw Saunders poach the ball, pass to McQuade who fed winger Max MacDonald for the score in the corner (5-0).
Cornish came back into the game and having gained territory, possession was lost; a kick ahead from MacDonald went to Saunders who fed Taylor Burnett. MacDonald stayed in the chase and read the situation well to find space to score in the corner and double Cobham’s advantage (10-0). Cobham were now dominating the game and following a trade mark line out take by Goddard, the resulting rolling maul allowed hooker Dave Stewart to go over for Cobham's third try (15-0).
Cornish now had their best period of play in the game and several penalties in front of the post were eschewed to retain pressure in pursuit of a try. To Cobham's credit, their defence withstood repeated attempts on the line and eventually possession was lost.
Cobham's bonus point fourth try came from another lineout. McQuade burst through the defence and had Saunders in support, before feeding Davison who expertly evaded several tackles before touching down for a try that Burnett converted, to give Cobham a commanding 22-0 lead at half-time.
The home side went into the second half looking to extend that advantage, but Cornish had a different agenda as all the play in the opening ten minutes was in the Cobham half. Taking a page out of Cobham's game plan, Cornish turned their lineout into an extended rolling maul and Cobham were forced to concede a penalty try in addition to losing Saunders to a yellow card (22-7).
Soon after this came what looked to be a serious injury to the Cornish second row; a shout-out to Physio Dave Silver for the support he provided to the player, who was eventually able to leave the pitch. Cornish lost their momentum and also a player to a yellow card for dissent. Somewhat against the run of play, Cobham used another lineout/maul combination, which gave hooker Stewart his second try that Burnett converted (29-7).
The visitors responded immediately and were now playing great running rugby. The Cobham defence managed to hold up winger Mackay over the try line, but with all the play now in Cobham's twenty-two there was an inevitably about what came next as a quick tap penalty by scrum half Fin Tweedie saw him crash over close to the posts, with fly half Fin Robjohn adding the extras (29-14).
The visitors continued to exert pressure and this resulted in a further try for number eight Davey close to the posts, which again was converted. With the scoreline now 29-21, Cornish had their sights on achieving an unlikely victory with 15 minutes left to play.
It was difficult to keep up with Cobham's penalty count at this stage and they lost fly half Johnny Holmes to a yellow card for an infringement. Cornish took advantage by sending the ball wide to their winger Mackey, who evaded the cover defence and touch down for the bonus point try that reduced the deficit to just three points (29-26).
This wasn’t in Cobham's game plan and shaken by how the game had turned around, Billy Davison’s team started to play the rugby we know they are capable of. It was a trademark break from Saunders, who spotted that winger MacDonald was in space before timing his angled kick to perfection for a try in the far corner. Although the conversion went wide, the final score of 34-26 saw Cobham back to winning ways.
Cobham will have been relieved to have won through and Manager Tom Schofield said: “The first half was some of the best rugby we have played this season in attack and defence. To nil a side at half time was fantastic. It was great to have both Tom Davison back from injury and Jake McQuade from travelling. Both add a different dimension to our back row.”
“Credit must also go to Joe Goddard, who goes about his work running the lineout and doesn’t always get the plaudits he deserves. Today he was at the top of his game in attack and defence, reading the opposition calls.”
“Credit to Cornish for upping their game and coming back at us. It will stand us well as we head away next weekend to second in the league Battersea Ironsides, who will test us in different ways. Hopefully, we can take some of our home form on the road.”
Also well done to the 2nd XV on their win away at Reeds Weybridge, a fantastic result to go with the All Stars victory last Friday night against OC’s'.
Cobham RFC 1st XV Squad:-
1. Chris Lippiatt
2. Dave Stewart
3. Luke Bliss
4. Luke Westgarth-Taylor
5. Joe Goddard
6. Oliver Fox
7. Tom Davison
8. Jake McQuade
9. Ryan Saunders
10. Jonny Holmes
11. Max MacDonald
12. Will Stephen
13. Taylor Burnett
14. James Edmundson
15. Rory Penfold
16. Ryan Aujla
17. Felix Lowe
18. Will Hebbes
Tries: MacDonald (2), Stewart (2), Davison, Burnett
Conversions: Burnett 2