League leaders demonstrate ruthless efficiency to hand exiles biggest defeat of the season!
Chobham produced some scintillating rugby to ruthlessly punish every little mistake that London Cornish made at the Richardson Evans Memorial Playing Fields on Saturday, winning the match at a canter by 9 tries to 2. The result strengthened their grip at the top of the London 2 South-West table, and left Cornish facing an anxious few weeks ahead, though with 6 wins already in the bag their fate remains very much in their own hands.
Cornish opened the match in front of a very large crowd swelled by the visit of Cornish Vice Presidents from around the country and by the presence of current Cornish President Ken Plummer. For the first 17 minutes of the match, there was no indication of the carnage to follow, indeed it was the exiles who set the tempo playing towards the scoreboard end. On 5 minutes Cornish player/coach Tom Sincock drove his side into the Chob half and won a penalty for the tackler not releasing. The penalty slid wide however. A couple of minutes later and Cornish won another penalty wide left and kicked it deep into the Chob 22, but when Tim Oakes won the set piece, he saw his side pinged for holding on in midfield. Back came the exiles again, Oakes and hooker Will Carew-Gibbs driving play back at the league leaders and again winning a penalty, which was again kicked to the 22. This time the lineout was lost as the vast visiting lock snaffled it to clear. This brutal opening flared up on 15 minutes and a player from each side was sent to the bin. Nothing wrong with this kind of refereeing – it serves notice early and there was no more of it throughout the match. However, on 18 minutes the visitors struck with their very first attack; they worked a 1 on 1 wide right and a simple missed tackle was all it took for their right wing to scamper over for an unconverted try. Within 2 minutes this was extended when Chob landed a penalty smack in front. With their tails now well and truly up, some exemplary handling on 26 minutes saw Chob score a second try, this one also unconverted but the lead suddenly 13-0. Cornish had to respond and respond they did, Jeff Power angling a couple of kicks into visiting territory where one was mishandled by the visiting full back. Hammering away from the resultant scrum, first no 8 Andrew McEwen drove on, then Mark Osei-Tutu and finally Carew-Gibbs before the ball was spun right to left to Skipper Luke Spells and Osei-Tutu to send wing Phil Francis one on one with his opposite man, he too capable of finishing with aplomb, plunging across the line for a well earned try, though the extras were not added. With 5 minutes left in the half Chob attempted a repeat of an earlier move but the experienced Nick Harlock spotted the danger and drove the Chob right wing into touch on the Cornish 22. It was clear that the full back had injured his chest in the tackle, and he would not last long into the second period. With time running out on the half Chob landed a further penalty and were good value for their 16-5 half-time lead, though Cornish were still well in the match.
Any plans Cornish had to close the gap further were blown apart within the opening 60 seconds of the second period when a chip in behind the visiting backline deep in their 22 ricocheted straight into the arms of their lightening right wing, and with the entire exile backline wrong footed, the lad sprinted clear for a converted try. When Harlock succumbed to his injury a few minutes later to be replaced by Iain Short, the felony was compounded. From this point on, a steady procession of Chobham scores were notched at regular intervals on 46, 53, 64, 71 and 76 minutes before a solitary reply came thanks to quick thinking from Sincock sending Francis away, an inside pass to Spells at the angle allowing the former Worthing centre to score and then convert his own try from the left touchline. Not to be outdone, Chobham completed their scoring on the 79 minute mark.
With the tries raining down so regularly, it really was very tough for your correspondent to note all the action down and tweet the updates, whilst also managing the replacements and talk to the VPs, so apologies if this is a far shorter report than normal. I will say this however – Chobham are without doubt the best side Cornish have played this season and are worthy league leaders. Clearly fit, well coached and well drilled, you could count the number of unforced errors they made in this match on one hand. They have real pace out wide and plenty of experience in the pack, which was required on the day since Cornish remain a strong scrummaging outfit. We wish Chob well with their quest to return to the higher level at the second attempt - on this form they are as sure a bet as Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham!
What you clearly saw on this day was the difference between a conditioned side who have trained throughout the winter and one that has managed only 5 sessions in the last 15 weeks. With the weather having relented and training now back on a regular basis, Cornish have the opportunity to play catch up. There was no lack of effort on the day, and it was encouraging too that every man jack of the starting XV had trained on the Wednesday night – that is just the sort of application that will stop the rot, so despair yea not Cornish fans – the exiles will be turn it round!