The fickle nature of rugby fortunes was amply demonstrated by this London 2 South-West game at Guildford’s well appointed and upgraded Broadwater HQ on Saturday; in perfect conditions, London Cornish contrived to turn a competitive 0-12 lead after 30 minutes into a 37-12 thumping, 20 points being conceded in a hapless last 15 minutes, when the lack of tackling and of discipline had to be seen to be believed. That your correspondent is writing this report in Inverness is purely coincidental, but its probably just about the best place for him right now after what he witnessed in those closing minutes on Saturday. Suffice to say, the side that stepped out for Cornish in this match will not be the same as that which steps out for the next.
Though 3rd and 5th respectively in the division, Guildford and Cornish were separated by some distance in terms of points prior to this match, but the visitors were able to welcome back a host of players absent from the previous weeks narrow defeat in the twice rearranged match at Reigatians. One notable absentee was no 8 Simon Brading
, who had not recovered from an injury sustained toward the end of that match, Mark Osei-Tutu moving to 8 and Andrew Preston
coming in at 6. Guildford have recently built a fine new clubhouse and though still short of a few final fixtures and fittings, the perennial bridesmaids of London 2 South-West have produced another decent season, so a tough afternoon was expected.
Cornish opened down the hill in perfect conditions, the hosts early attack repelled by a decent piece of mauling poaching by returning lock Pete Calvert. Early intent by the exiles saw wing Robin Heymann
sprint down the blind side in front of a packed balcony to link with fellow returnee Tom Jacob, but the scrum half’s inside ball drifted forward. On 9 minutes, Cornish set a rolling maul just inside the Gs half, working to just outside the 22 before Jacob hit Heymann blind again, the wing stepping deep into the Gs 22. As a ruck formed, the ball was kicked through to the home sides side, only for one of their number to completely miss an attempted clearance kick, the ball rolling over the tryline wide left for Heymann to pounce for the easiest try he will score all season! Fly half Rich McKeown already has over 100 league points this season, and he extended his haul with a superb touchline conversion to give his side an early 7-0 advantage. The Guildford response was instant, and an early indicator of what was to follow as a clean break by their right wing was only halted by one of a series of fine cover tackles by the exiles full back Nick Harlock
, one of a very few to stand up on the day for his side. For the next 10 minutes a pattern emerged as Gs kicked in behind only to find the exiles lineout solid on its own ball, Calvert and Tom Stock winning their ball. For a time, centres Iain Short
and Graeme Smeaton snuffed out sporadic Gs attacks, winning a penalty for holding on prior to a Harlock counter linking with Heymann who was downed by a high tackle on 17. Frustratingly, the exiles lost the lineout after the ball had been kicked to the corner, and within 4 minutes had conceded a kickable penalty inside their 22, this one chipped wide left to the home supporters disappointment. On 24 minutes, Jacob took a tap for a scrummage offence on halfway and popped the ball to Osei-Tutu, arriving on his shoulder on a great line to smash through the defence, pound his way to the 22, draw the wing and flip a pass to Stuart Bell on his outside, the wing handing off the covering full back to crash across the line for an unconverted try. Just when concentration was required to consolidate after the score, Cornish coughed up the restart, conceded a penalty and then switched off when it was taken quickly, the triple error allowing the home no 8 to plunge over close to the posts for a converted try. Within minutes the entire complexion of the game changed, a missed tackle in midfield on halfway seeing a home centre link with his right wing with a fine long pass, the speedster around the cover and under the posts for a 7 pointer, giving his side the lead. Cornish responded well, another fine Harlock counter seeing him link with Short, who crashed into the 22, the recycled ball chipped in behind and scrambled into touch for a lineout. Winning the lineout, Cornish worked the ball to McKeown, who pirouetted round a tackle only to see the ball knocked on in the offload with the tryline begging. With time running out, another break by the home 14 saw him evade some paper thin tackling only to be smashed into touch by the solid Harlock.
With only 2 points in it at the break, there was little indication of what was to follow. Suffice to say, a penalty count of 28 to 8 certainly did not help the exiles as they comprehensively lost discipline in the second period for a vast array of different offences. An early Guildford attack on 42 was only halted by yet another Harlock tackle before another Gs counter on 44 saw them win a scrum V bang in front of the posts. The one area of the exiles game that has remained consistent throughout an inconsistent season has been the scrummaging, and here once again the front row of Mike Bond
, George Johnson and Skipper Dave Theobald
demonstrated just what a formidable unit they are, forcing the home side to concede a penalty as they began to exert pressure that would only increase as the game wore on. Back came the home side, only a fine Bond tackle followed by Johnson winning a pen for holding stemming the tide. On 51 minutes Cornish conceded a penalty for a high tackle, the kick converted and Cornish making two changes now, Will Carew-Gibbs on for Johnson and Stefan Duda on for Heymann who had taken a heavy knock. Despite now being utterly dominant in the tight, Cornish were increasingly reliant on counters by the effervescent Harlock, one such break seeing an inside pass to Preston knocked on. Gradually, Guildford upped the tempo, aided by the huge penalty count building against the exiles, hampering their efforts at every turn. On 65 minutes, Gs won a scrum V following a successful chip and chase. They worked the ball left to right 5 out and exploited a gap right under the nose of the referee, Cornish feeling the arbiter blocking their path to the tackle. The conversion missed left but the lead was now 10. Straight from the kick off the home right wing could not believe his luck as he danced through a series of powder puff tackles to waltz over from deep in his own half, another unconverted try but the match now well out of the exiles reach. On came Dave Hill for Calvert at lock, but he was a mere spectator 3 minutes later as the Gs 10 stepped back into the pocket to bring up the 30 with a drop goal. The coup de grace was delivered on the final whistle when the home side counter rucked a Cornish ball inside the 22 and hit a forward on a switch for a try under the posts, the conversion making the final score 37-12.
Guildford still harbour hopes of catching Wimbledon for the play-off spot, but they will need a favour or two elsewhere if they are to achieve this. They are certainly one of the most complete sides in the league, as they have been for a few seasons now, and they are clearly ambitious witnessed by the investment in their infrastructure. If we do have the pleasure of seeing them next season, they will certainly be one of the teams to beat for sides aiming to win London 2 South-West. This was a horror show for Cornish, and one which has tested the patience of the DoR. A few players have been knocking on the door from the 2s this season and some will now be given their chance in the remaining league games of the season.