Cobham RFC’s 1st XV squad and a significant number of their supporters travelled to Amersham & Chiltern RFC for the first time on Saturday (7 January) looking to avenge their last minute defeat they suffered at the Memorial Grounds last October. They achieved that objective somewhat against the run of play, on a rainy and windswept afternoon where mud was the leveller. In this low scoring contest, the visitors were able to secure their eighth consecutive league victory, matching their record run during the 2017/18 season when competing in London South 1.
Chris Lippiatt won his 50th cap, having played front row in every game this season and Will O'Leary made his first start of the season in the back row. Gresham Lynn came in late for Tom Farrelly at centre, with Will Stephen switching to fly half.
There has been consistency in how Cobham have secured the first score early doors in this successful run of victories. That pattern was maintained as back row forward O'Leary sidestepped the opposition to score under the posts after just seven minutes. Stephen, standing in for Farrelly, converted (0-7). With Amersham & Chiltern sitting just one point ahead in the league, the sides were going to be closely matched and they responded by putting pressure on the Cobham defence and securing a penalty. Centre Oscar Heath slotted over the kick to cut the deficit (3-7).
It was perhaps inevitable in the weather conditions that knock-ons would feature heavily throughout, generating more scrums than usual. In recent games that might not have troubled Cobham, but for the first time the pack struggled against larger opposition. Similarly in swirling conditions, a number of lineout throws were deemed not straight and therefore took away another advantage that Cobham had enjoyed within their recent game plan.
Taking those disadvantages into account, Cobham were withstanding the hosts and Lynn, Doug Rodman and Ollie Fielding were putting in some great smother tackles, while James MacDonald and Dan Allchurch put-in relieving clearance kicks against the wind. The next score for Cobham came from a well-judged penalty from Stephen on a day where every point was going to count (3-10) and that scoreline probably fairly represented the dominance Cobham had achieved in the opening 40 minutes.
The second half was to play out somewhat differently as the pressure being felt in the set-piece started to have an impact. The hosts started to dominate and put together some backline moves which eventually resulted in Heath going over in the corner to score (8-10), before narrowly missing the conversion.
Against the run of play, a kick ahead by Ryan Aujla looked to have been scored from a distance but it was just short before Rodman was unable to secure a touchdown either. The pressure was lost and an infringement provided Amersham with a penalty attempt to go ahead, but Heath was unable to convert and the score stayed 8-10.
Centre Noah Jackson and winger Mackenzie South were causing Cobham difficulties and it took an Allchurch tackle to halt a further score. However, South broke the defence to score in the corner to put the hosts in front for the first time (13-10) despite the conversion once again being missed.
Earlier in the season, Cobham might have capitulated but such is the spirit and competition within the team that it is now not on the agenda. Hooker Mario Zakakiotis had been joined by two substitutes, both hookers; Dave Stewart, who slotted into the back row, and Andrew Murphy, who delivered a Super Mario passage of play where he retrieved possession from the lineout and secured a relieving turnover at the ruck.
Encouraged and using the wind to their advantage, Cobham, who had been behind territorially for most of the second half, made it into the Amersham & Chiltern half and from a successful lineout used their trademark catch and drive to enable Rodman to score with eight minutes to go (13-15). Stephen then secured the most important conversion of the match to put Cobham four points clear (13-17).
Watching Cobham is now consistently exciting and explains why supporter numbers are increasing at every game. With the home side looking to score that important final try, the visitors dug deep into that team spirit to withstand the pressure and with the clock ticking down, Ollie Fox avoided a scrum turnover by picking up from the tail under pressure and fed Captain Ryan Saunders who kicked for touch. The referee then blew the whistle for the final time. Final score 13-17.
Cobham 1st XV Squad:-
1. Chris Lippiatt
2. Mario Zakaiotis
3. Ryan Aujla
4. Luke Bliss
5. Doug Rodman
6. Will O'Leary
7. Ollie Fox
8. Ollie Fielding
9. Ryan Saunders (Capt.)
10. Will Stephen
11. Ollie Horton
12. Gresham Lynn
13. James MacDonald
14. Rory Penfold
15. Dan Allchurch
16. Dave Stewart
17. Andrew Murphy
18. George Pickersgill
Tries: O'Leary, Rodman
Conversions: Stephen (2)