Cornish Salvage Point from Mauling at Medway!
By Dickon Moon
Final flourish pinches vital point!
Ah the best laid plans! Already shorn of the previous weeks 1, 4, 6, 7, 10, 13, and 14, London Cornish contrived to lose their 9 in the warm up and 15 to a dislocated shoulder inside the opening 15 minutes at title favourites Medway in Rochester on Saturday. Though it proved beyond those available on the day to compete on even terms with their hosts, the spirit in the camp was demonstrated by 4 2nd half tries to garner a try bonus point, the latter 2 tries coming in the closing 3 minutes of the match. There are a few clubs in London 1 South enduring a tough start to the season from an injury perspective, and the ability to nick points when up against it is a decent barometer of how such teams can bounce back.
With changes too numerous to outline, Cornish arrived at Medway to find the pitch in great condition, with a healthy covering of grass to protect against the solid surface beneath. Though Medway had not landed bonus point wins in all of their games to date, they had still arrived at this point unbeaten, and last seasons beaten Play-Off side were in no mood to give their visitors any sympathy for their plight. Scrum half Rich Stephens suffered a neck injury in the warm up, so Dan Phoenix
reverted to 9 with Sam Vaughan
coming in to 10. It took 15 minutes for the home side to score their first converted try to add to a penalty on 7 minutes, by which time full back Steffan Lloyd
had dislocated his shoulder, forcing blind side Ali Springer
into the backs, Will Murray
on at hooker for his debut to allow Will Sheridan
to move into the back row. Tries rained down at regular intervals after this, the detail of them lost as your correspondent sought to find transport to take Lloyd to A&E, but notes suggest further scores were added on 17 minutes (converted), 25 minutes (unconverted), 28 minutes (converted) along with 2 penalties on 31 and 35 minutes. The lack of structure in the visitors defence was completely understandable, and many of those on the day racked up a tackle count as big as they had all season to date, Phoenix, Joe Donnelly and Skipper Dan Leo
of particular note. As ever, the one facet of the exiles game that continued to hold up was in the tight, and credit must go to Oli Low, Murray and Mark O'Leary for that as it gave their side a foothold in the game, but they turned around 35-0 in deficit.
The break saw open side Josh Holmes
need treatment to a facial wound, and he was replaced by Dave Theobald
. The former Skipper was quickly in the thick of things, Sheridan winning a penalty for holding, Cornish taking a quick tap, Theobald driving into the 22 and La Broy taking it to 5 out before birthday boy Matt Hakes was released to dive over for a welcome try converted by Phoenix. The respite was short-lived and the response from Medway immediate, as they scored 2 further tries, one of which was converted, on 46 and 50 minutes. Leo, who lead from the front in both carries and the tackle count, was twice involved in the exiles next attack on the hour mark. The visitors won a scrum V, and when it was recycled it was Jack Vosper
on hand to step out of a tackle and cross for his sides 2nd try, also converted by Phoenix. The next 15 minutes saw Cornish try and run the ball from everywhere in a desperate attempt to try and salvage something from the game, and the ball was coughed up on a number of occasions, Medway too good a side to look the gift horse in the mouth, landing 19 more points with tries on 68, 72 and 75 minutes. During this period, a patched up Holmes bravely reappeared, Low rested having put in another great shift. On 77 minutes and after successfully holding up a Medway maul 5 out, lock James La Broy
showed a great turn of speed to race up the left flank, and when supported by Phoenix, the Cornishman was on hand to take the return pass and plunge across the line for the third try, also converted by Phoenix. Now it was only a question of whether the exiles could grab that 4th try, and it seemed a forlorn hope when Rory Stanyard
fielded the ball running backwards deep into his 22. However, the young wing has something about him, and here he chipped the onrushing defence and regathered before arrowing infield. When downed, Phoenix combined with La Broy, Vosper and Leo before sending Donnelly away from some distance out to land the bonus point to great delight from the visitors team, and both supporters!!
Medway remain the standard bearers for London 1 South, and any pretenders to their crown will have to tackle their all court game. Their 7 is as good as any in the league, and they achieved this result without their normal 10, who returns from this point on, the lad standing in giving a pretty decent impression. Their new clubhouse is a great facility, and it looks as though the club is gearing up for the next level, by which time they may have found a way of including the oppo team in their glossy matchday programme ;). Hopefully, they will have fixed their boiler by then too, as Cornish have enough of cold showers at the REMPF!
The exiles will take plenty from the bonus point, which seemed highly unlikely at the hour mark. Its clearly a tough time with the injury list, but it will improve and you cannot fault the effort from those being exposed to the level for the first time. Who knows how helpful this might be as the season rolls on!