Cornish Give Best Late On!
By Dickon Moon
Another decent performance but alas, no cigar Frank!
Another stirring match in the pantheon of stirring matches in London 1 South this season, saw title contenders Medway fight back from a 22-12 half-time deficit to land the bonus point win by 27-22 against London Cornish at the REMPF on Saturday. The match was a terrific and thrilling encounter, featuring 7 tries.
In the reverse fixture, a paper thin Cornish squad had lost their only 9 in the warm up, and then their full back to an injury in the opening minutes and were on the end of a hiding. In this match, in a spooky reprisal of that reverse game, Cornish lost talismanic lock Harry Somers
to a neck spasm just minutes before kick-off, and then his replacement James Snape to an injury in the 1st half. This meant Cornish fielded 4 front row for most of the match, and in that context must take plenty from the performance here.
The exiles made a couple of changes from the side successful at Tottonians, Dan Leo
returning in the back row, Rich Stephens at 9 and Jamie Owen
on the wing. Playing towards the clubhouse in the opening half in still, overcast conditions, the home side very nearly conceded a try in the opening attack, but a fine covering tackle by Skip George Kimmins
, allied with the usual strong defence against a rolling maul snuffed out the danger. On 6 minutes, hooker Will Carew-Gibbs took a strike against the head at a scrum, but when Cornish broke into the Medway 22 they knocked on when well placed. It didn’t take long for the opening score to follow. A James La Broy
claim at the resultant lineout saw a juggernaut maul drive the Kent side to within 10 of their line, and when Sam Vaughan
made a half break, he produced a sumptuous offload to the supporting full back Dan Phoenix
to scamper over to the right of the posts for a try converted by Kimmins. 5 minutes later the visitors levelled the score when they worked a move a the front of the lineout to send one of their number over wide left for a superbly converted try. With a slight breeze at their backs, Cornish retook the lead on 16 minutes when Stephens won a penalty for holding on the 10 metre line, Kimmins driving a howitzer between the uprights from distance.
The ding dong battle continued on 20 minutes, Medway breaking a tackle and scoring in a similar spot to their opening try, though this was not improved, the visitors now 12-10 up. Cornish missed a chance to retake the lead when a penalty from on half-way flew narrowly wide, distance not an issue. On 27 minutes, the home side had their reward, to huge cheers from a well oiled and vocal home crowd. La Broy was the architect, his powerful run from inside his own half shedding would be tacklers until he was deep inside the Medway 22, and when the ball was recycled blind, Kimmins hit a straightening Owen to burst through and twist his way over for the try (see pictures for a great view of this final act). The conversion went astray, and this was the point at which Snape departed, Oli Low on at prop and Guy Sullivan
moving into the row. With the momentum behind them, Cornish sniffed another score, winning a penalty for hands in on 33, which was kicked to 10 out. Leo claimed the lineout, and the exiles set an unstoppable rolling maul, only ending when Low crashed across the line for the try (pictured), converted by his Captain. Try as they might in the remaining minutes of the half, Medway could not respond with points, and an enthralling game turned round with Cornish 22-12 to the good.
Cornish opened the 2nd period well, forcing Medway into a series of hasty offloads until they had retreated into their own 22, but the trusty boot of their 10 cleared the danger. Cornish were a tad lucky to escape on 47 minutes when they made a hash of fielding a long kick through, but won a penalty on their own try line for a Medway player going off his feet in an effort to retrieve the ball. The cut and thrust of games like these are made for the likes of Leo, and increasingly he was having to clean up in the tight, as the lack of 2 2nd rows was causing the exiles issues. Medway appeared to be chasing the game and making more errors than they normally do, but on 51 minutes they broke through only for Phoenix to end the attack with huge tackle, winning a penalty in the process. Back came the promotion contenders, winning a penalty for a high tackle and then producing a high intensity series of phases to finally cross for a try to the left of the posts, converted by their 10 to leave the teams 3 points apart with around 15 left. Cornish brought on the ailing Somers at this point, though he was not moving with much comfort, Low withdrawn. This score predicated a furious Medway assault, and Cornish were forced into another reshuffle, in-form centre Vaughan withdrawn after getting a finger in the eye (no inference here, this was an accident), Jack Skerritt
on in his place. With the back row of Leo, Matt Chambers
and George Shirlaw
manning the barricades up front, the home side were forced ever wider to get their reward, and on 68 they scored again when Cornish turned a ball over in midfield, quick hands sending their right wing away for an unconverted try, the visitors now 2 points up. Kimmins and Will Carew-Gibbs combined to snuff out the next attack, a trademark turnover by the latter following a great tackle by the former. However, Medway had increasing joy on ruining the exiles lineout, which was a jumper down. First they forced a knock-on on 74, then they won a scrum penalty as the exiles stood up. The penalty was landed by the visitors to give them a 5 point lead with a few minutes remaining. In those remaining minutes, it was Medway who had the ascendancy, and it was only great scrambling defence by Bryce Morgan
that prevented further damage in the closing seconds, the visitors value for their win, but Cornish thoroughly deserving of their point.
Medway remain the team all the other promotion contenders in the league will have to beat to stay there. They have an all court game, strength in depth and an efficient kicking game to back it all up. We apologise to them again for both the cold showers and lack of a post match pasty, both of which are being investigated. Good luck to them for the rest of the season.
In their last 8 games, Cornish have only given best to the top 3, and the level of performance in the 1st half here showed plenty of promise for this transitioning side. It’s a cracking league to watch, and it was great to hear pitch side singing breaking out as the 1990’s Players Reunion soaked up the er atmosphere!