Cobham RFC welcomed London Welsh to the Memorial Grounds on Saturday (22 January) for their first match with a guard of honour from the Under 8s and 9s squad, which welcomed the players as they took to the pitch before kick-off.
The home side went into this game against league leaders London Welsh following back-to-back wins against Chichester and Battersea Ironsides, and were pleased to see the return of back row Jake McQuade from injury after a couple of months on the sidelines.
It was testimony to the competitive approach that Cobham had taken when they visited Welsh last October that the visitors rested seven of their players last week so they were fit for this game. That decision looked to have been wholly appropriate with Cobham opening the scoring with their fastest try of the season. Louis Porter the kick-off, it was fed to Goddard and McQuade who gained sufficient territory that allowed Porter to finish what he had started and drive over (5-0).
London Welsh have lost only once this season (away to Guildford by just three points) and they have only failed to gain a try scoring bonus point in one game. It soon became clear how that record had been achieved, as obviously stung by the early try, they unleashed their attacking game on Cobham. A break wide from winger Louie Groark and a try by prop Griff Whitson was swiftly followed by hooker Andy May powering over which was converted by fly half Osian McAvoy. The scoreline after just eight minutes was 5-14.
Cobham's response was immediate as they took the game back to Welsh and put them under pressure in their twenty-two, with the visitors conceding successive penalties that Cobham turned into lineouts. It needed prop Whitson to rip the ball and take the game back to the halfway line for Welsh to regain momentum. The hosts lost centre George Tunnacliffe to injury, bringing Ant Braitwaite on from the subs bench.
In turn Welsh lost their full back Cowdy to injury and then the first of two yellow cards for the visitors shown to back row Matt Williams. Having stemmed the Welsh tide, Cobham benefited from the penalty infringement that enabled Tom Farrelly to reduce the deficit from 30 metres out (8-14). It was apparent London Welsh don't like to concede points, as from a short restart Prop Andy Black collected and the eventual off load provided winger Groark with an opportunity to score in the corner. McAvoy converted to make the score 8-21 at the start of the second quarter.
McQuade was making up for lost game time by taking every opportunity to attack and the Cobham backline was firing with runs from Luke Flower and James MacDonald, but the Welsh defence held firm. The home side then withstood further pressure from Welsh, who spurned a further try as the final pass was judged forward. With no further scores before half-time, Welsh were justifying their league position.
Cobham started the second half looking to claw back points and that looked to have been assisted when winger Paolo Peschisido was yellow carded. Farrelly again took advantage to convert another penalty (11-21). London Welsh responded and from the fifth phase following a scrum, Black dived over to make it a front row hat-trick and the all-important bonus point try, converted by McAvoy (11-28).
Cobham's response came from winger Dan Allchurch, making the first of two searing runs and from the pressure created Captain Ryan Saunders sneaked over for an unconverted try (16-28). The hosts came close again when Allchurch's kick ahead could not be reached by Saunders but it was Welsh who finished strongly, starting with a penalty from in front of the posts (16-31). A runaway converted try by Peschisido was followed by back row Rohan Pixley driving over, making the final score 16-46.
Director of Rugby, Steve Pope said: “Very proud of boys again today as they showed in large parts of the game just how good they are. We were unfortunately just beaten by a better side. Although I feel the score might flatter the visitors a little with the late scores.”
“They are a strong side and more importantly a nice bunch of lads from a great club. We wish them well for rest of the season; for our lads, there is still plenty to play for and lots of rugby ahead. Really feel we can push everyone we have to play and looking forward to seeing how much we can improve in this second half of the season.”
Cobham 1st XV Squad:
1. Chris Lippiatt
2. Andrew Murphy
3. Ryan Aujla
4. Wesley Van Der Ploeg
5. Joe Goddard
6. Louis Porter
7. Ollie Fox
8. Jake McQuade
9. Ryan Saunders (Captain)
10. Tom Farrelly
11. James MacDonald
12. Luke Flower
13. George Tunnacliffe
14. Dan Allchurch
15. Jonny Holmes
Tries: Porter, Saunders
Penalties: Farrelly (2)