London Cornish achieved their pre season goal of a highest ever finish in the league structure, despite switching off early to concede 12 points in the last 3 minutes of injury time against Camberley at the REMPF on Saturday. The point secured 4th place for the exiles, though the side lost the match by a goal, 2 tries and a penalty to a goal, a try and a penalty.
Cornish once again fielded a much changed side, Nick Harlock
the last man to drop out having succumbed to illness on Friday night, but in truth there was enough experience on the pitch to have carried this game, notwithstanding a couple of early injuries to a couple of key players on the day.
On a bright, slightly blustery day the visitors brought just about the largest travelling support of the season, befitting of a club who a mere dozen years ago were a Level 3 club. Cornish, playing in their change strip, won a penalty on 4 minutes when the in-form Luke Spells
angled a crashing run into the Camberley 22, but he fell awkwardly when tackled and required lengthy treatment before getting up and pulling his kick left of the posts from wide left. The visitors early attacks were hampered by forward passes and knock on’s, the one attack that did make real ground being ended by a crunching Iain Short
tackle. At the subsequent scrum, Cornish took the ball against the head for no 8 Simon Brading
to bash his way upfield, link with his scrum half Tom Jacob, and then win a penalty on halfway as their oppo went off their feet at the ruck. 2 minutes and a scrum later, the ball was worked to Mark Osei-Tutu just inside the Cam 22. The powerful back row handed off a tackle and powered his way over half way in from the posts, John Barker
adding the extras. The visitors reduced the arrears with a penalty on 16, but Spells had not been able to shake off his early knock and was replaced, Josh Furniss coming in on the left wing, Fraser Smeaton
reverting to centre. With a freshening wind at their backs, Cam missed a point blank penalty on 20, and from this point the game deteriorated, becoming niggly and scrappy. Hampered by their own inability to supply clean ball to their 9, Cornish were unable to build on their lead while the visitors were frequently on the wrong side of the referee. On 32 minutes the Cam no 8 made a decent break up field, but their backs opted to chip ahead and Barker was on hand to sweep up the ball and clear. A minute or so later a bizarre event nearly cost Cam dear; first Alex Soskin
stole a ball on the floor on halfway and linked with lock Pete Calvert to thunder on well inside the 22. Winning a lineout, Cornish overthrew the ball for it to be worked back to the Cam 10, who thought he had heard the referee tell him that there were 9 seconds of the half left so simply ran the ball over his dead ball line. To his horror, the referee called scrum V!! Defending as if their lives depended on it, Cam forced a lineout to Cornish but their 5 was binned for repeated offences. His side held their composure however, winning a penalty to clear a minute later. Cornish repeatedly knocked on restarts and long kicks in the remaining few minutes, eventually conceding another penalty on 39, which was also missed from wide right, the whistle going at the break with the exiles 7-3 to the good.
Cornish suffered another blow at the break, Brading unable to continue following a knock to a knee, veteran James Turnbull
on at prop, Osei-Tutu moving to 8, Matt Pollard
to hooker and George Johnson to the back row. This reshuffle seemed to affect the hosts, for they began to fall off tackles and paid the price on 45 minutes, Cam working repeated phases to work a 4 on 1, which they just executed despite a fine covering tackle by full back Liam McConnell
. The conversion fell short but now Cam had the lead. Two minutes later Cornish had the chance to retake the lead, but this kick was similar to the Cam one in the opening half, pulled badly left of the posts. No matter, for within 5 minutes the home side did retake the lead, Johnson ripping the ball from the restored Cam lock and working it into the hands of his backs on halfway. Quick hands from Smeaton put Stefan Duda away and the Bude flyer cleared away down the left flank, crossing the line and arrowing in half way to the posts, though this kick also went wide. The visitors were rattled by this, driving the restart out on the full then electing to kick a penalty into the wind from inside their own half, which barely made the 22. Back came the visitors and very nearly drove over before Duda and Short bundled them into touch wide right, from where lock Dave Hill pinched the lineout and the ball was cleared. The two sides increasingly looked as though they were ready for the seasons end, errors affecting both teams though the Cornish front row of Turnbull, Pollard and Skip Dave Theobald
continuing to dominate their opposite numbers despite some curious decisions going against them. On 68 minutes Cam were pinged for hands in on half-way, and with the wind to assist him Barker lifted a fine kick between the posts to give his side a 15-8 lead. Cornish brought on Alex Clough for Hill now, and there really appeared little way back for the visitors who hadn’t offered much once the exiles had retaken the lead. Out of nowhere, and with time running down, the visitors broke through to crash over wide left, the conversion well short but the deficit down to 2. With the referee indicating that time was nearly up, Cornish simply switched off, the ball worked to the Cam wing who set of on a run that would end with him crossing for just about the easiest score he will ever register, players simply waiting for someone else to tackle him meaning he did not have a finger laid on him as he completed the converted match winning score. In the final analysis, the result was immaterial to the league positions, but the match had demonstrated the best and worst of Cornish this season.
Camberley have had a real topsy-turvy season in London 2 South-West, leading after a few matches and then sinking into near relegation trouble before recovering in the closing weeks. They will have learnt much from the year, are the best supported side in the league, and have a decent bunch of experienced coaches at the helm. Great to see them all come back to the pub post match, and apologies it got so cramped, but see you next season!
It has been a curious season at Cornish; no side can expect to progress using over 50 players in 22 league matches, and yet a 4th placed finish creates a little piece of history for those involved. It's a curious anomaly that of the sides remaining in the division from the previous season, only Champions Gosport and Cornish were actually able to improve on that previous seasons finish, a real indication of just how tough this division can be. With the 2s claiming 3rd in Shield Div 3, the Choughs winning Middx Merit Table Div 4, and the Dukes finishing 3rd in Surrey Comb Div 1, the club is in rude health. Yet these finishes merely demonstrate what could be achieved with more commitment and organization, so expect plenty of change during the close season.
What shape the division will be in for 2012/13 has yet to be settled; the Dons will surely prove too strong for Charlton Park in the play-off, our near neighbours stifling defence masking some talented ball players in their midst. An almighty scrap to avoid relegation from the division above sees Portsmouth and Trojans taking it down to the last weekend, neither wishing to join Sutton & Epsom in Lon 2 S/W next season. Down go Bognor, and in rather more desperate circumstances Twickenham, felled at the last by a Teddington revival and an administrative error, which gave their rivals the lifeline. Up come two old friends in Old Alleynians and KCS Old Boys, ensuring a reduction in travel for Cornish next season. It is worth noting that the exiles pre season matches were well chosen; Guernsey will go on to win Lon 1 South, and the aforementioned Alleynians won Lon 3 S/W; keep an eye out for the exiles opponents in August and we will be back then!