Effingham & Leatherhead 0-56 London Cornish
Photos & Report by Ben Gilby
London Cornish put in a truly professional eighty minute performance in the mud at Browns Lane yesterday to record an impressive eight try victory.
The win was the fourth on the bounce for ‘The Exiles’ in a run which has seen them concede just thirty-five points. The performance at Effingham was yet another demonstration that, since the Extra-time cup loss at Crowborough there has been a stiffening of Cornish resolve, and a sheer determination to play at the peak of their performance regardless of whether or not the result was already settled.
Former England U21 and Premiership player Simon Brading made his first start of the season, following an appearance on the bench at home to Warlingham last week. Matt Hakes moved in to the centre with Luke Spells absent, and Ben Devonport continued his impressive role in the number eight shirt in the absence of Mark Osei-Tutu.
The game started with Cornish on the front foot. Conditions were quite heavy underfoot, but slightly milder conditions than of late were welcome. An impressive series of early recycles between Chatley and the Skinnard brothers saw the ball kicked through by Matt Hakes. Effingham, understrength due to a range of injuries, knocked on the attempted gather, with Cornish being awarded the scrum. Immediately, it was obvious that the visitors would have a major advantage here, as the forwards turned the screw. Effingham stood up and ‘The Exiles’ were awarded a penalty. Josh Allison placed the ball and dissected the posts. After four minutes, Cornish were on the board.
With the Black and Golds dominant in the scrum, they also began to give Effingham huge problems in the line-out, with three steals of the home line-out ball in the first half alone. At one stage, ‘The Eagles’ were under so much pressure in this facet of the game that they began to throw to the front of their line.
Skinnard on the break for Cornish
As the game approached the fifteen minute mark, Ben Ievers won yet another line out and Will Carew-Gibbs made a searing break before offloading to Joe Skinnard. Hakes fed Heymann before the slippery and muddy ball was lost forward on the hosts’ 22 metre line. Cornish remained in control, and from another stolen line-out, a series of pick and drives set up a huge rolling maul down the left hand side, with Ben Devonport grounding the ball on 22 minutes. Allison’s conversion was good, and the lead was 10-0.
Just three minutes later, Cornish were over again as a kick through was ran onto by Robin Heymann. The home defence held the Exiles’ winger off, but the clearance kick went straight to Harry Somers, who made ground before his offload was kicked through and pounced on by Rich Skinnard who was never going to be stopped. Allison knocked over his third kick of the afternoon, and it was now 17-0.
‘The Exiles’ very nearly went straight up the pitch to score again as Devonport gathered the re-start, and a nice handling move from Hakes, Carew-Gibbs and Brading resulted in a Cornish penalty as Effingham were adjudged to be too slow to roll away. The visitors kicked to touch. From the line-out, an impressive eight man offloading move, involving both forwards and backs ended with Devonport and Hakes combining to play in Robin Heymann, who was adjudged to knock-on in the grounding of the ball.
Despite the hosts having a chance to clear, they soon found themselves pinned back inside their ‘22’ once more. Healey fizzed the ball to Heymann and Harry Somers galloped down the left hand side to score. Effingham supporters vociferously claimed that the Cornishman dropped the ball in his grounding, but the referee was not to be swayed. Allison missed the touchline conversion, but Cornish were 22-0 up at half-time.
Effingham started the second half well, and enjoyed their best period of territory in the match. A fantastic break by centre Matt Long, played in his full-back Jason Evans who went on a great run. Cornish ended the move by impressively turning over the ball, and the danger was gone. Shortly afterwards, from their first attack of the half, Cornish were awarded a penalty, with Allison opting to go for goal, and the lead was increased to 25-0.
Photo: lock Ben Ievers soars in the lineout
The Exiles soon had the home side under pressure, and from a comedy of errors inside the Effingham ‘22’, where a succession of home players found the ball too hot to handle, resulted in the ball being eventually kicked out behind the dead-ball line. With Cornish being awarded a five metre scrum, given their dominance up front, there was only going to be one result – a rolling maul and a try for the visitors. Ben Devonport grounded the ball at the back, for his second of the afternoon, which sealed the try scoring bonus point. Allison added the extras as the score went out to 32-0.
To their credit, Cornish kept their foot on the accelerator. Matt Hakes was influential all afternoon, and he had a hand in Black and Gold’s next try, just six minutes later. He floated an outstanding ball out to Robin Heymann who galloped through to score in the right hand corner. The tough conversion attempt was missed.
‘The Exiles’ support had only another three minutes to wait for the sixth try. Replacement Phil Dale made an immediate impression as he sprinted through a huge gap with ease to score. Allison’s conversion took the lead out to 44-0. As the game entered the final ten minutes, there was still time for the visitors to add a further two more scores. First, on 71 minutes when a great build-up saw an interchange between Allison, Hakes and Heymann saw the ball played to Harry Somers who grabbed his second try of the afternoon. Allison missed the conversion, but it wasn’t long before he was back on the scoresheet. A Cornish penalty was kicked to the corner. From the resulting line-out, Healey fed Josh Allison, who capped an impressive afternoon by diving over to score, and then adding the conversion.
Cornish now have a fortnight before they return to league action. They stand just four points behind leaders Tottonians in second place. Farnham are next up at The REMPF on 21st February.