As if to emphasise it was the rugby season, rain provided the backdrop to CS 1863's return to the Memorial grounds.
A founding member of the Rugby football union in 1871 they have a long and proud heritage, even if their links with the Civil Service and now more tenuous. They played their rugby last season in London North 1 ending the season 5th and were transferred sideways to London South 1 as the most southern team in that league
Cobham and CS 1863 both went into this match having secured impressive wins the previous week and their last encounter had been in a pre season friendly in 2014 which Cobham had won 26-21.
The return encounter was going to be result in virtually an identical score, the significant difference being the victor.
Cobham were supported by representatives of their mini section as they took to the field
Cobham's director of rugby, Steve Pope was able to put out the majority of his squad from last week's win at Chiswick. Alex Alves coming on the wing and second row Joe Goddard returning in the second row. Ali Porter and full back Jean Louis Gravier also made the starting line up.
Both sides spent the first ten minutes sizing each other up albeit in the CS 1863 half and Cobham turned possession and territory into the first points when, from a turnover, Alex Alves broke the defence line with sheer pace and put centre Matt Goddard into the corner 5-0 becoming 7-0 as fly half Tom Farrelly made a difficult conversion look easy.
That score continued the expansive running style Cobham had shown the previous week leaving the home supporters encouraged. However the visitors responded in style with Tom Proctor breaking the line following a drive from a penalty in the Cobham 22, fly half Hodge converting 7-7.
Cobham's back row of Rodman, Koep and Porter were looking to drive forward at every opportunity as the slippery ball and ground restricted and frustrated Cobhams running game. Play ebbed and flowed for the next twenty minutes until the pressure the home team had been exerting on the Stags line paid off. Scrum half Robbie Kennard stealing a score to triumphantly emerge with the ball from beneath the pack following the whistle. 12-7. Farrelly converted at the second attempt after some enthusiastic but misguided 'happy clappy' defence running was penalised by the referee.14-7
Cobham were enjoying their best period of the half and as it was to turn out the whole game, as within minutes centre Charlie Rooke charged down a kick and Ali Porter secured a try 19-7. Farrelly might have converted had the ball not slipped from the kicking tee and his subsequent drop kick not missed.
The visitors responded with a period of pressure as the first half drew to a close and although Cobham defended strongly they could not stop winger Heslop from scoring in the corner 19-12.
Cobham's second half performance's last season were legendary with maximum bonus points being secured on numerous occasions. The visitors had no intentions of allowing that to happen in this match and whilst they were not wholly supreme they secured all the points which ultimately proved decisive.
The half started with strong drives from Porter, hooker Jake McQuade and prop Josh Brown but the pressure could not be converted into scores and after ten minutes it all 'kicked off' as both teams became fractious. In one encounter Charlie Rooke was adjudged to have impeded play and was yellow carded so Cobham would now have to defend an increasingly resurgent opposition with 14 men.
Matt Goddard made the first of a number of Cobham try saving tackles but the next phase saw centre Tom Hodge go over under the posts with the inevitable extras 19-19.
Pope made his substitutions, Saunders for Kennard, Spratt for Porter and the new legs helped Cobham as they resisted what felt for the home supporters an interminable final third of the match. Pope would have been pleased with the patience that Cobham adopted as the Stags looked to constringe the home sides defence. Cobham relieved the pressure frequently, including winning a scrum against the head, breakdown turnovers and relieving kicks but they were unable to turn the subsequent possession or territory into the points as they might have ordinarily expected.
Finally, with less that ten minutes remaining, the visitors desire to reverse the previous result was achieved and a push over try saw their winger Heslop score his second, converted by Hodge with the last kick of the match.19-26
The jubilation of CS 1863 could only be matched by a stunned silence from Cobham who had to not lost a league match since last October. The result not withstanding this was a competitive game of rugby with both sides gaining and then losing the advantage. CS 1863 go to the top of the league with Cobham's next opponents Dover close to propping up the table having lost away to Maidstone
Steve Pope said after the match
''After a good first half performance, we didn't play or manage the game in the second half well enough. Not like us at all and some silly mistakes and a yellow card really made it hard work for ourselves.We will have to improve on that as a performance to get to the level we expect from this group.Lots to work on and I/we will look forward to the return fixture.
1. Ben Joyce
9.Robbie Kennard ( Captain)
15. Jean Louis Gravier
18. Ryan Saunders
Tries: Goddard, Kennard, Porter
Conversions Farrelly (2)