Cobham welcomed old friends London Irish to Fairmile Lane on Saturday (28 January) and the large crowd were treated to a great spectacle of Level 6 rugby, which the hosts won 34-26 to maintain their unbeaten run in the league. Cobham also celebrated 100 First XV caps for scrum half Ryan Saunders and it was ironic that it was to be against London Irish, who of course are well known to the Saunders family.
We should also mention that Jamie Yorke (the youngest of the four Yorkes on Cobham’s books) made his First XV team debut at tighthead prop; the 18 year-old is fresh out of school and to be fair, was a candidate for man of the match though inevitably and deservingly, this went to Saunders. Both these lads have been members of Cobham Rugby since Under 6s and, indeed, 15 of the match day 18 were Cobham youth players; something to be proud of. A big thank you also goes to the Under 9s squad who, as guests of the First XV, formed a guard of honour for the two teams running onto the pitch. They had a fantastic day.
Cobham kicked off on a perfect day for running rugby and the opening 20 minutes were spent in the London Irish half with the home side running the ball at every opportunity and tackling well against Irish’s big ball carriers to dent their attacks. The pressure eventually told as Irish were carried back into their own in goal area. Cobham won the scrum and moved the ball right where Max Macdonald came off his left wing to score under the posts (7-0).
He nearly scored a second shortly after when a scoring pass was dropped close to the line, but Cobham kept the pressure up and after a good kick through by Tom Farrelly, possession was regathered and the forwards drove for the line before the ball was eventually grounded by Yorke for a try on debut. London Irish were certain there was a knock-on in the build-up but the referee awarded the score (12-0).
With the first quarter over, Irish to this point were struggling to get into the game. However, that changed when Cobham dropped the restart and good hands resulted in the pacey Henry Fuller going over in at the corner. He also added the conversion that made it 12-7, which arguably didn’t reflect the pattern of play, so Cobham were keen to get some more points on the board before half-time. Will Stephen made a nice break but the scoring pass was dropped again but at the resulting scrum, Irish were under immense pressure and a great drive from Andrew Murphy, pulling in the defence, allowed Saunders to run into the gap, one side step and try on his 100th appearance (19-7).
Nevertheless, the visitors were slowly getting into the game and created chances, most notably after 35 minutes when they had a three-on-one down the blind side, only for some good covering defence putting the last man into touch. Irish continued to push with their big runners off their 9 and 10 but after a number of good phases, it was their turn to drop the scoring pass.
Cobham were ready for the half-time whistle and, after a short break where Tom Farrelly had to go off with a broken nose, Gresham Lynn came on in the centre and Will Stephen moved to 10. Cobham won the defensive scrum five and played out the last two minutes with some pick and goes before the referee finally said last play. Cobham led 19-7 at the halfway mark, which was a fair reflection of the opening 40 minutes.
The opening 10 minutes of the second half continued in the same vein. London Irish’s kick-off didn’t go the 10 metres and a good scrum from Cobham, where the back row were putting the Irish defence under pressure, allowed some great attacking play into Irish territory, only for Jake McQuade have the ball stripped upon entering the twenty-two. However, the referee penalised the Irish backs for offside and Stephen was on target with the kick at goal (22-7).
London Irish had their chances and looked dangerous when the ball was spread wide, but a great tackler from John Radford killed the move. A penalty to Cobham followed, kicked to touch and clean lineout ball allowed the Cobham forwards to carry off the 9 and one huge drive by the young Yorke, out to in at great pace, cleared a few defenders and before Murphy claimed the final carry and a really well worked converted try (29-7).
Cobham were seemingly home and dry, but this is Cobham and Irish were now coming into the game much more with some excellent ball from their lineout (which had misfired in the first half) and a mixture of big runners close in, assisted by good pace in their back division, they finally they got their reward. A decent position was won by the backs and then close to their own line, Cobham were caught offside. Irish elected to tap and go and finally the defence cracked allowing number eight to score (29-12).
Irish had the scent of something and continued to press hard but knocked on inside the Cobham tweny-two. Irish went after the set-piece and with the Cobham scrum creaking (to be fair for maybe the first time), they were under pressure and close to what could have been a penalty or maybe a scrum to Irish, number eight McQuade picked-up and went, making important metres, as he always does, and giving Cobham the chance to clear.
Back came Irish, a beautiful clearing turned into a 50/22 and Irish ball deep in the Cobham half. The home side managed to get away unscathed but after working their way up field, Irish managed to create space on the halfway line and their pacey winger Johnny Ilroy ran in unopposed. The conversion was added and the deficit was down to 10 (29-19) with ten minutes remaining.
Irish went for it but, arguably against the run of play, the crucial next score went to Cobham. Irish transgressed which gave the hosts a penalty and an easy out; a great touch find put Cobham deep in the London Irish twenty-two. Wes Van Der Ploeg, who was on for John Radford, won excellent lineout ball and set-up the maul. Cobham continued to drive and eventually it was hooker Dave Stewart who claimed the points. I’m sure this is worked on in training and it was great to see it bring its reward in a match. 34-19 with six minutes to go.
Irish certainly had not given up and having probably shaded the second half, felt they deserved something from this match. Cobham were penalised for not rolling away and it gave Irish the chance to set-up camp in the home sides twenty-two. After multiple carries, the dam broke and Bingham went over for his second try and a bonus point for Irish. The final conversion of the match made the final score (34-26).
It was a good day all round for the club, as the Second XV also had a great win against local side Reeds Weybridge (29-18).
It had been a great game of rugby, a credit to all the players and gave Cobham ten wins on the bounce, which keeps them in second place. Both sides played some great rugby and it’s clear to see why Irish are in fifth place. Whilst Cobham definitely had the better of the first half without maybe taking their chances, Irish for sure had the best of the second half but Cobham’s defence came to the fore, epitomised by two try saving tackles by full back Dan Allchurch when exposed one-on-one.
Coach Dan Walsh said after the game that he was very happy with the result and without doubt was starting to see things happening on the pitch that reflects the hard work put in by the boys at training. He was pleased with the effort and defence especially ,but would like to see the team being a bit more clinical in attack.
Cobham 1st XV Squad:-
1. Ryan Aujla
2. Andrew Murphy
3. Jamie Yorke*
4. Doug Rodman
5. Joe Goddard
6. John Radford
7. Olly Fox
8. Jake McQuade
9. Ryan Saunders** (Capt.)
10. Tom Farrelly
11. Max MacDonald
12. Will Stephen
13. James MacDonald
14. Rory Penfold
15. Dan Allchurch
16. Dave Stewart
17. Wesley Van Der Ploeg
18. Gresham Lynn
Tried: MacDonald, Saunders, Yorke, Murphy, Stewart
Conversion: Farrelly, Stephen (2)
** 100 Caps