Quite often at this level, the seeds of a performance on a Saturday are sewn in training in the run up to the match. So it was that the spine of the London Cornish side selected for this match at Old Colfeians RFC in Regional 2 South-East did not train for a variety of reasons on the preceding Wednesday and so the exiles team did not appear as a coherent force in the match itself. The Kent side did not have to be at their best to score 4 converted tries and 4 penalties and register a very comfortable win.
With a peculiarly late kick off for the time of year, the match began in the gloom on a decent surface given the amount of rain that had fallen, both clubs bemoaning the fact their lower teams had seen matches called off on the Saturday morning, alas too late for them to face each other, which could have been the case with more notice. Cornish, playing into a stiff breeze towards the training pitch, began the game well, an Adam Wheeler bullocking run seeing a penalty won on the floor, Fin Robjohn giving his side an early lead. In these early minutes the visitors were both dominant in the tight and pinching OC’s lineouts, throws in recent weeks seemingly attracted to Rory Ling (pictured after another steal) like a magnet to metal! One such a steal saw another Wheeler carry, this time supported by Ciaran Johnston, a high tackle ending the attack but seeing Robjohn double his teams lead with 10 minutes on the clock. However, twice pinged on 11 and 19 minutes as they tried to exit, Cornish saw their lead wiped out and before long they were behind, a series of pick and go’s on 23 seeing the home side crash over for a try by the posts, the conversion a formality. When the restart flew out on the full, the pressure was back on the visitors, a mishit clearance kick on 28 seeing a back caught offside, the penalty taking the lead out to 16-6. Worse was to follow, for a high tackle on 31 minutes saw an exile binned, the penalty slamming the left hand upright but landing on the right side for the kicker. Suddenly, Cornish began to fall off tackles, a huge carry taking the ball deep into the visitors half, then a simply set of quick hands seeing the extra man stroll over wide right to round towards the posts for another converted try, the lead now out to 20 points at 26-6. Whilst the set piece was working well for Cornish, their handling was not, the ball lost in contact on at least 6 occasions during the match hampering any attempts to build pressure. With time nearly up on the half, the exiles were pinged for dropping a maul then didn’t respond quickly enough to a tap and go, OC’s probably surprised at just how easy it was to crash over for another converted try to the left of the posts, 33-6 the half-time score, the sin bin having cost 17 points.
Now with the wind at their backs and back up to full numbers, Cornish gained plenty of possession at the start of the 2nd half, but lost it forward on so many occasions when well positioned despite hard yards gained by the two wings George Bromage and Robbie Mackay, both desperate for first phase clean ball to make it out to them. On 49 minutes it was OC’s turn to lose a man to the bin for a high tackle. The exiles rang the changes on 50 minutes to try and capitalise on the extra man, Mike McEwen on his return to 1s action replaced by Mark Osei-Tutu in the forwards and Pete Brogden by Alex Gregory in the backs. Oscar Cruz, whose carrying made more and more yards as the game wore on broke through on 52 minutes but again the exiles saw the ball lost forward on the floor, Ling replaced by Abraham as the 2 sets of shirts became increasingly indistinguishable in the fading light, the referee happy to carry on despite the exiles having their change strip on the touchline. On 58 minutes Mackay reacted quickest to a spilt ball on halfway, twice fly hacking on but Horn Park has the minimum size in goal areas and the ball trickled dead before the flyer could finish. 5 minutes later Cornish won a penalty kicked to 10 out down the left by Robjohn, Carr claiming Cruz’s arrow and a further penalty won for the maul being brought down. Electing for a scrum, the ball shot out the back of the exiles side and was lost on the floor, a penalty conceded and the danger cleared. Back came Cornish, Osei-Tutu linking with Jack Waving to carry the ball to within 10 of the line only for another penalty to be conceded. With frustration etched over their faces and having dominated territory for most of the 2nd half with no reward, it was no surprise when OC’s were able to break from deep down the right flank, recycling the ball through phases in the visiting 22 before one of their number broke through for the bonus point try, it also improved to cap the scoring on the day, Cornish a well beaten side by 40-6.
Colfeians are on a decent run at present and will be happy with their return on the season to date. Particularly strong on their own patch, they will have enjoyed this sound win where they were far more clinical than their visitors.
We have been down this route before with Cornish in recent seasons and there is no substitute for training to begin to turn fortunes around. 3 tough matches to follow in the run up to the break so an improvement there will need to be…