Cobham produced what Director of Rugby Steve Pope described as the performance of the season to overcome a monster Portsmouth side on the coast.
After inflicting a heavy defeat on the Seasiders in the early part of the season, Cobham knew that the return fixture would be an altogether more challenging affair.
Cobham made several changes with Jean-Louis Gravier and Max MacDonald returning to the wings, Tom Farelley making his season debut at flyhalf, Richard Trepant moving to 12 and George Donoghue bolstering the front row options from the bench.Portsmouth had also made several changes, fielding a heavy-weight pack the likes of which Cobham had not seen since their time in London 1. On a very soft surface this would prove not to be a day for finesse.
The early exchanges set the tone for what would be Cobham’s most physical encounter to date. Portsmouth set their stall out with waves of big, close runners trying to dent Cobham’s recently stingy defence. Conditions made territory count over possession however, and this was to cost Portsmouth early. After a poor clearance kick, Cobham still intent on playing expansive rugby, shifted the ball from the left flank through MacDonald to Clements. The red hot full back scythed through from the 10m line for a brilliant solo score. Farrelly converted from under the posts. 0-7 The gloss was quickly taken off as Physio Dave Silver was forced to remove Clements after a tweeked hamstring in the process of scoring. Veteran Arran Cowell filling the void once more.
After soaking up another barrage of one out running, the trick was to be repeated as Portsmouth were again punished for handing over possession in key areas. After a left wing break, Tom Farrelly pounced on his own kick through to score. 0-14 and only 15 minutes gone.The deficit took the edge off Portsmouth and the remaining exchanges took on a familiar theme. Portsmouth bludgeoned in midfield, ball was lost and Cobham broke from deep. This was to be the case until 10 minutes before the half when Portsmouth pounced on uncharacteristically sloppy play within Cobham’s own half. After a hacked through kick, indecision left the Portsmouth’s backs a simple exchange in order to score. The conversion missed and both teams entered the sheds with game on.
The half time report would have been positive from Pope as the Cobham set piece was functioning well with back row giving very little to their larger opponents. Instruction would have been to get another prompt score and continue to play in the right areas.
Cobham did so with aplomb. Farrelly the recipient of a timely inside pass after a strong midfield break from powerful centre Matt Goddard. Converting his own score, the new fly-half was making a considerable impact on the game. At 5-21 after 50 minutes, and Portsmouth seeming unable to expand their game due to the pitch and fatigue, the result looked decided. What wasn’t was the all important bonus point.
With the considerable intent shown this side of Christmas, Cobham went on the hunt and built their most sustained period within the Portsmouth half. After a good deal of possession, if not territory, Portsmouth now needed to defend well. They did so for repeated phases and held out several Cobham attacks. The dam was final broken by Prop Josh Brown who with a trademark spin, stretched to touch down. Taking his try tally to 8 for the season, Brown was clearly pleased with the try. With a full bag of points achieved the remaining phases were marshalled professionally by Captain and scum half Robbie Kennard. Full time Portsmouth 5-28 Cobham.
Delighted by his sides application Pope enthused;
“This fixture had banana skin all over it. We new Portsmouth would be a very different animal on their own turf and so it proved. They are a very physical style who in an arm wrestle can really cause problems. We showed great application and commitment in nullifying their direct style and playing rugby when we got the chance. You can’t win anything without digging deep in all conditions and we showed just that today"
"Being able to have the likes of Matt Goddard, Calum Williams, Nathan Ampofo, Jonny Wehbe et al., all back for this year will be key to our squad depth. It highlights how important Dave Silver is to our programme that guys get back so quickly from injury. We’re so fortunate to have his skills. Im sure he will have James Clements back with us ASAP too."
Cobham entertain Andover on Saturday 23rd Jan at the Fairmile.