When all else fails, blame the ref. Blame him cos he was faultless on this occasion, so deserves the blame for removing one of the last remaining reasons for a defeat. Or the weather; on arrival a beautiful day causing your correspondent to don sun block, but within 10 minutes of the start, torrential rain arrived that did not relent until near the end of the match resulting in a no note match report. No matter who we blame, the fact remains that the exiles were nilled at home for the first time in the 9 seasons under the current administration, and after 2 matches of the current season prop up the London 2 South-West table for the first time ever. The defeat was by virtue of 2 goals, 2 penalties and a drop goal to nil on a day when Cornish could not field a recognized kicker in their XV having had to use 23 players in their opening 2 games, their visitors Wimbledon dominant in most aspects of the game. The prospect for this number to rapidly increase is high, since the exiles also suffered 3 further injuries to add to their woes on this occasion.
With debuts given to Andrew Preston
at 7 and Rich Frost at 10, along with Luke Spells
off the bench, there were a few unfamiliar names to seasoned exiles supporters watching the match. However, there were also returns for Ian Keith
and Nick Harlock
in the backline, so the side looked more familiar than that which opened the season the previous week. Cornish played towards the clubhouse in the opening half, and for the opening 10 minutes the match was nip and tuck as the Dons twice butchered overlaps out wide, and Cornish twice butchered lineouts deep inside the visitors 22. On 13 minutes and at a lineout 5 metres from their line, a Wimbledon prop suffered a nasty injury that resulted in a 10 minute delay while he was treated and a decision taken that it was safe to carry him to the sidelines. Gradually, the blue sky overhead disappeared to be replaced by a blanket of rain clouds that quickly dumped everything they had on the REMPF. Now the game became nip and tuck again, a Dons back chip and chasing down the left flank before fly hacking into touch, before wing Nick Harlock
sprinted down the right side inside one tackle and into the Dons 22 before his inside pass was knocked on. On 26 minutes the Dons fly half finally decided enough was enough and stepped back into the pocket to drop a goal to give his side the lead. With the rain now torrential, all pitchside bar your correspondent and the touch judges disappeared to the comfort of the of the clubhouse steps, and your correspondent struggled to keep the water out of his contact lenses let alone to record the events! What is indisputable is that the Dons doubled their lead with a penalty around 32 minutes and Cornish lost Smeaton to a shoulder injury shortly after, Luke Spells
on for his debut at centre. For the remaining 8 minutes of the half, Wimbledon hammered away with a series of scrums deep inside the Cornish 22, but excellent defence close in from the exiles back row of Andrew Preston
, Mark Osei-Tutu and Andrew McEwen repelled them. Finally, and at the 5th reset scrum, the visitors knocked on for the whistle to go at the break, the Dons 6-0 to the good.
Cornish suffered another blow at the break when a back spasm accounted for Adrian Montague, the Penryn man replaced by Surrey county lock Pete Calvert. For the opening 5 minutes of the half, the roles were now reversed as Cornish exerted huge pressure on their oppo, McEwen twice driving to within inches of the posts only to repelled by strong defence, and kickable penalties eschewed in favour of scrums. Finally, and with the ball increasingly tough to handle cleanly, Cornish too knocked on for the ball to be cleared at the resultant scrum. Whereas Wimbledon had used the conditions to their advantage well with a series of box and long distance kicks gaining field position, Cornish were incapable of replicating the tactic and as a result were forced to defend further and further up the field. This tactic, coupled with a gradual deterioration in their set pieces, starved the back line of good quality ball, and on 54 minutes this profligacy came home to roost in disastrous fashion when they failed to control a scrum V near their line for the ball to squirm free at the mercy of the visiting 9, who simply pounced on it for the opening try of the match. The conversion was made by their decent kicker and the lead was out to 13-0. Cornish had made another change by now, Mike Bond
on at prop in place of Hamish Cuming
, but within 6t minutes a third injury saw hooker George Johnson pull a groin forcing Cuming to return to the fray and Skipper Dave Theobald
to move to hooker. On 58 minutes Cornish were caught offside in front of the posts, and the visiting kicker extended the lead to 16-0. Finally breaking the shackles, the exiles cleared their lines on 62 and wing Robin Heymann
caught the Dons full back, who was pinged for holding. Once again the exiles refused the penalty, this time kicking to the corner only for the ball to slip from the grasp of its intended recipient to be cleared. Two minutes later and the Dons had worked an overlap wide right for their wing to cross out wide, this conversion also made and the score now 23-0. With the game now gone, all Cornish could do in the remaining minutes was defend stoutly to prevent Wimbledon from adding to their score, this at least being achieved. For the second week running, Cornish were a well beaten side on the final whistle.
Wimbledon had the best record of the sides coming down from the division above, and have had a decent start to the season. It is too early to say exactly how strong an outfit they are, and the real test may come when injuries bite as their second string will need to be stronger than it was the last season; they have a decent man in charge to make sure this is the case and look a more organized outfit than they were when promoted a few seasons ago. This has been a tough opening couple of weeks for Cornish, forced to use far more players than they would have liked and not able to seriously work on their defects until this week, the first in which they will be able to train inside their training venue as opposed to the dimly lit scrubland outside it. The injuries wont help, but a bit of dry weather on a Wednesday and Saturday might!