London Cornish backed up their comprehensive win against Old Reigatians last week by handing Chobham their biggest defeat of the season so far, this brutal win landed at the Fowler’s Wells HQ of their hosts by 5 goals, a try and a penalty to a try, though the exiles remain in 6th place in London 2 South-West. The news that both the other Cornish sides in action on the day won well again reinforces the belief beginning to course through the club at present after a slow start to the season.
Although Chobham had been relegated from London 1 South at the end of last season, they had already accounted for a couple of sides in the division as well as holding then league leaders Camberley to a draw away, so the visitors knew that this beast of a division had added another capable side to its ranks. Cornish only made a couple of changes to the 18 successful the previous week, wing Ed Good away and replaced by the Bude flyer Stefan Duda, a recent signing from the DoR’s former club Old Patesians. With Iain Short
’s injury against OR’s turning out to be a detached tendon, rendering him on the easy list until Christmas, Ian Keith
was recalled at 12 and prolific scorer Robin Heymann
was available again to bench.
Cornish arrived at the ground in good time, and though the clubhouse and pitch itself were in good order (and all set for a big bonfire night bash that evening), the pitch was disappointingly covered in dog excrement from the in-goal areas, across all sections of the pitch to the carefully marked technical areas. All clubs are open to the possibility of dogs fouling their pitches, but it really ought to be possible to get someone to sweep across them before matches to clear them – less Fowler’s Wells than Well Foulered on this occasion!
The Chob pitch is a curious one, seemingly uphill wherever you stood on it, but it is well grassed and a decent width. Cornish elected to play up a hill and into the wind in the opening half (the clubhouse was on the exiles right if that helps!), and an early Chob attack from their 13 was met by a robust tackle from Graeme Smeaton for the ball to be knocked on. Chob launch some of their big trucks into midfield on circle balls, and had some success with this tactic early on, buoyed by a substantial crowd and by arguably the most vocal female pensioner in the leagues (she incidentally great value and a credit to her club). On 9 minutes, and after a decent midfield break by the home side, the exiles were pinged for hands in the till smack in front of the posts well inside their 22. To the amazement of all watching, the home kicker completely fluffed his lines, pushing the kick wide of the right upright. Steadily, Cornish worked their way in to the match, full back Nick Harlock
a constant menace with chips in behind and angled runs. Following one such burst, the home 7 suffered a deep cut by the eye and was replaced, not to return again. This was the first of a series of injuries for the home side as they strained to cope with a physical battering from the Cornish pack. The Cornish scrum had a big edge from the off, and on 15 no 8 Andrew McEwen broke blind and hit Duda on a great line, him arrowing into the Chob 22 before the ball was knocked on in the offload. Back came Chob, one of their backs breaking clean through and into the 22 only to be held up by a strong Harlock cover tackle. As the players mauled for the ball, Cornish were again pinged and another Chob player required lengthy treatment off the pitch. Chob kicked for the corner, and as they attempted to work the rolling maul toward the visitors line, were horrified to see the exiles hooker Will Carew-Gibbs emerge with it down the narrow side. He took off, demonstrating just what a frustrated back he really is, sprinting out of his 22 and over half way before looping an inside ball to wing Stuart Bell, who handed off his opposite number and dashed away from the cover to dive over wide right for a lightening counter attacking try. As the exiles fly Rich McKeown went to kick the conversion, the ball blew over forcing a hurried drop goal attempt, which understandably fell short. Four minutes later and Chob were back under their posts. This time Cornish worked a rolling maul from a Tom Stock catch into the home 22 up the hill for the home side to transgress. The penalty was kicked to the corner and then the exiles were held up over the line. At the scrum V, Cornish drove Chobham over their line only for the home 9 and open side both to kick the ball away from the hands of no 8 Andrew McEwen just as he was about to dive on it, the referee having no option but to award the penalty try, which McKeown converted for a 12-0 lead. With Cornish now utterly dominant and lock Pete Calvert seemingly claiming every restart, open side Chris Turner
was the next to feature on 28 minutes, taking a great line down the blind side and linking with Harlock before the final pass was knocked on with the try line wide open. No matter, for at the scrum Cornish simply drove Chobham off their own ball and McEwen was unstoppable, powering over for the score to the right of the posts, McKeown again converting. Back came Cornish, playing superb rugby as backs and forwards linked well, Simon Brading
at the heart of much of the hard yards being made. He linked with McKeown on 34 and as the fly half spun out of a tackle Chob were pinged for offside, the former driving the penalty into the wind for a 22-0 lead. On 2 more occasions in the closing minutes of the half Cornish came close to adding to their score, the first when Brading broke through on a right to left slant to link with Keith, only for him to have the ball knocked from his grasp as he sought to put Duda in the clear. The final act of the half saw a Harlock counter from a long clearance kick send Duda into space wide left, and as he left his opposite number for dead the inside pass was knocked on, the whistle sounding shortly after and a large home crowd utterly silent aware that it would require a herculean task to pull this one out of the bag at 0-22 and into a stiffening wind.
Cornish made a change at the break, resting loosehead Mike Bond
and fielding George Johnson in his place. It didn’t take long for another change to be made, and this one was forced as in the very first Cornish attack down the right wing Stu Bell twisted his ankle nastily as he was hit by a decent last ditch tackle following another Harlock break, Bell replaced by Heymann, the latter desperate to get back into action for his club. Any hope that Chob had of getting back in the match evaporated on 45, another McEwen burst seeing the ball quickly recycled for Tom Jacob to hit Calvert arriving at pace on his shoulder, the Surrey lock making no mistake in crashing across the line for the bonus point score. McKeown had found his range from the off, and he lifted this difficult kick between the uprights for the conversion. The next 10 minutes were the best of the match for the home side, winning a series of penalties inside the Cornish half and then the 22, but they lacked the penetration to make this possession count and finally their Skipper was smashed into touch by McEwen for McKeown to clear at the lineout. Another injury to a Chob player delayed proceedings and this player was also replaced as the brutal close quarter encounters took their toll. With Keith and Graeme Smeaton locking up the midfield, and the two Chob wingers seeing little ball it was difficult to see how the home side could score, let alone get back in the match. On 57 the diminutive home 9 attacked blind down the left flank deep inside the visiting 22 but ran straight into the bear like arms of Cornish Skipper Dave Theobald
, the tighthead simply holding onto him and the ball to win the turnover. Having held off the pressure from Chob without the home side troubling the scorers, Cornish turned up the wick once more. On 63 Jacob sniped blind and hit Harlock with clear water ahead of him only for the pass to be called back for being marginally forward. Harlock was not to be denied long, for on 67 Carew-Gibbs pinched one against the head just outside the home 22 and after line breaking runs from McEwen, Johnson and Brading, Jacob again hit Harlock, who this time stepped the cover and sprinted away to score under the posts, the conversion a formality and the lead now 36-0. Cornish made a final change now, bringing on Phil Ridsdale
at lock for the in form Calvert. Within minutes another Cornish attack, again instigated by Carew-Gibbs saw Harlock send Duda away only for him to be hauled down by the cover just a metre from the posts. The ball was quickly recycled for Keith to hit Heymann wide right, and though the wing still had plenty to do he has more steps than Fred Astaire, him leaving two tacklers puzzled as he plunged over the line for the score. Despite this being near the right touchline, McKeown once again made the kick, his 6th from 7 attempts on the day to edge his side to a 43-0 lead. The final scoring act of the day was a consolation for the home side, though Cornish will be disappointed that the 77th minute effort came close to a ruck for a home forward to dive over, a hurried drop goal conversion attempt missing and the final score 43-5.
Chobham will need to bounce back quickly from the back-to-back hammerings they have just suffered if they are not to be drawn into another relegation battle. They have a week off to lick their wounds but there are simply no gimme’s in this division. They have great facilities, a young side and an enterprising committee so the challenge will be met head on. Cornish will be delighted with their form now, but need to carry this level of performance into every league week if they are continue their climb. They may well experiment with the side in the Cup match at unbeaten East Grinstead next week, giving game time to a few players who have not featured much thus far, but the league resumes in two weeks time so the focus will need to be maintained for that.