Old Haberdashers RFC play their rugby at the fortress Croxdale Road in Borehamwood and Cobham travelled there on Saturday (18 February) needing to breach that fortress if they were going to extend their 12 match winning run, which had started with the away win against Windsor on 15th October. There will be real disappointment that it was not achieved but credit is due to both sides for providing a pulsating game of rugby that provided 70 points and the lead changing hands seven times.
Cobham played the first half up the hill and against the wind. There was a debut for Alex Blackwood in the back row, and returns to the side for Will O'Leary, Jamie Yorke and Mario Zakakiotis, In addition, Andrew Murphy moved to number 8 for the first time.
Tom Jackson kicked six penalties for the home side and it was the first of those long-distance penalties in the opening minutes that put OH ahead (3-0). That was swiftly followed by Cobham fly half Luke Flower picking up a dropped pass from OH before driving over for the opening try, only to see his conversion attempt charged down (3-5).
Jackson regained the lead for OH with his second penalty but Cobham's full back Dan Allchurch completed a hall mark Cobham backline move with a try in the corner that put the visitors back in front, despite the conversion being missed (6-10). The penalty fest continued for Jackson following further infringements from Cobham and the scoreline swiftly changed to 15-10. Although OH had not scored a try to this point, this was not to take anything away from some powerful running from their backline.
Farrelly missed a penalty, as did Jackson when his latest attempt hit the post, while Cobham's centre Yiannis Loizias and fellow Cyprus international Mario Zakakiotis were causing OH defence some concern with their surging runs. However, as the first half ended, it was OH’s Josh Bunn who powered over and Jackson converted to give the hosts a two-score lead at the break (22-10).
Cobham would need to up their game if they were to extend their unbeaten run and with the benefit of the wind and incline that is exactly what they did with a try from Loizias, set up by Murphy (22-15). Within minutes a further try followed, set up by Murphy again from the back of the scrum who fed Saunders for it to be floated out to first Loizias, then Allchurch and finally Penfold to score in the corner (22-20).
With the momentum of the game having swung, OH needed the next score and that came when ex-Cambridge University players Suwi Chibale and Joey Gatus combined to break the Cobham defence and score (27-20). It was clear that OH could sense victory, but Cobham weren't going to give up on their record without a fight. Farrelly intercepted the next OH attack and ran over 60 metres to touch down and convert his own try to level the score, before putting the visitors back ahead with a penalty (27-30).
The commitment from both sides was apparent and there was a brief 'handbags at dawn' moment which required the referee to intervene. It was Briffit, who had threatened all afternoon, who was next to break the line for a try that Jackson converted (34-30). After a further try was avoided and territory gained with a kick ahead from Penfold, OH lost their fly half for an infringement in front of the posts and Farrelly took the difference to just one point (34-33). Jackson extended the lead with his final penalty of the game, but Cobham had one last hurrah with Max MacDonald being held up from what would have been his 100th try for Cobham 1st XV. Final score, 37-33.
Whilst not taking anything away from OH, this defeat will have been tough for the squad and the coaching staff. This weekend sees Cobham travel to another fortress, this time to league leaders Hammersmith & Fulham; the team will be looking for as much support as possible for what is set to be another bruising encounter.
Cobham 1st XV Squad:-
1. Chris Lippiatt
2. Mario Zakakiotis
3. Jamie Yorke
4. Luke Bliss
5. Wesley Van Der Ploeg
6. Alex Blackwood*
7. Will O’Leary
8. Andrew Murphy
9. Ryan Saunders (Capt.)
10. Luke Flower
11. Ollie Horton
12. Yanni Loizias
13. James MacDonald
14. Rory Penfold
15. Dan Allchurch
16. Dave Stewart
17. Tom Farrelly
18. Max MacDonald
Tries: Flower, Allchurch, Penfold, Yanni, Farrelly
Penalty: Farrelly (2)