In a bruising encounter Cobham’s young guns came up short in a top of the table clash against Promotion rivals London Cornish.
The match was billed as the first major test of how far Steve Pope’s newly formed squad had come. The final score would suggest that despite many positive signs there remains plenty for him and his squad to work on.
Cornish, visibly the weightier of the two teams started on the back foot as Cobham built strong phases of play and looked to move the ball. The early exchanges clearly demonstrated that this match would be a step up in intensity for both sides. Despite patient ball retention, Cobham’s line was crossed within 10 minutes after a clearing kick was shifted blind and poor defensive marking allowed winger Duda in untouched. 0-7. The game remained an arm wrestle until Cobham’s account was opened by fly-half Wehbe via a penalty. 3-7
Cobham struggled to maintain long periods of possession despite looking threatening in the backs, handling errors led to Cornish penalty on the 22m line which was gladly taken to restore their 7 point lead. 3-10.
The remaining period of the first half saw Cobham gain some continuity and mount pressure on a strong defensive Cornish line. This eventually led to a second penalty from Wehbe to leave the score 6-10 at the break.
Believing that the team could not make as many errors in the second period, coaches Pope, Gibbons and Hopper would have been pleased to still be in touch at half way. With more control they would hope to release the backs and gain a foot hold in the second half.
This was dismantled within 10 minutes of the restart as firstly cheap penalties gave Cornish ground and from a resulting line out and maul Cornish crossed to score. Within 2 minutes they were to cross again as an intercepted pass would allow their winger to run home for a 50m score. 12 self inflicted points in the space of 10 minutes ending the game as a contest. 6-22
With a strong lead Cornish’s burly team were perfectly suited to shutting the game down and through direct running and physical work at the breakdown, were able to stifle Cobham’s remaining efforts.
The cherry was put on their cake by winger Deda to clinch a bonus point for the visiting side, adding to the home teams frustration.
Despite the loss backs coach Matt Hopper was upbeat after game.
“We will take a huge amount from that game as both individuals and as a team. We came up short in a few key areas and our basics let us down. Despite that we are a young and new side and things will take time to gel. I'm hugely encouraged by our start and this squad has masses of potential”
This was echoed by Director of Rugby Steve Pope:
“We knew Cornish would bring a very direct and abrasive game and we will face that style a lot this year. We will take more from this than any win and we will grow from it. Our focus will be on showing that development when we visit Cornish after Xmas but starts next time out away to Basingstoke. I'm expecting a very strong reaction”