OLD ALLEYNIANS 16-19 LONDON CORNISH
London Cornish stay top of London Two South-West after a hard fought 19-16 win at Old Alleynians, reports Ben Gilby
On a damp, dank afternoon in Dulwich, ‘The Exiles’ had to work hard to ensure they left with a victory.
Cornish came into this game having not conceded a try in four games, and, in total only nine points in this period. They were under no illusions as to the task that faced them at Old Alleyians though, with the ‘Old Boys’ being the only side to lower Tottonians’ colours in the league this season.
The build-up to the game saw Cornish forced into making late changes to their starting line-up as Craig Chatley was injured in the warm-up. This could have resulted in a slow start for the visitors, but to their credit, ‘The Exiles’ took the lead after just three minutes, when, following early pressure, they were awarded a penalty which Luke Spells successfully kicked. With a light shower beginning to fall, the ball became very tough to handle, and it was very much an even-stevens period. Alleynians showed great pace on the wings, with Gareth Wynn making the yards, before a Cornish infringement, and Paul O’Connor levelled the scores after ten minutes.
Pic Chris Anstey puts in a big hit on OA player
Crucially, the Black & Golds hit back and, with the forwards in clear control of matters, Alleynians were forced backwards before the ball was zipped out by Rob Healey who found the impressive Phil Dale who dived over in the far right hand corner for his third try in four games to re-establish the lead. Spells’ conversion attempt from a tight angle missed.
With the benefit of the slope, Alleynians had the best of the second quarter, and two successful penalties by Paul O’Connor saw them take a wafer-thin 9-8 lead at the break. Cornish knew there were plenty of opportunities in the second half as, on the occasions that they had got forward momentum, the home side found it hard to contain them.
Yet, it was the home side who made the strongest start as a great move at pace resulted in Jake Smith dotting down, with O’Connor adding the conversion to increase their lead to 16-8. Once more, Cornish responded to the concession of points positively. After an attack, a penalty was earned, but Spells’ attempt missed. The momentum continued though and the forwards began to force Alleynians back into their ten metres on a regular basis. A series of line-outs and drives resulted in Ben Ievers grounding the ball just in from the left-hand touch-line. The conversion attempt from Luke Spells missed, but Cornish were now right back in it.
Alleynians had their chances sporadically, but Cornish had the upper hand. They were regularly repelled by quite outstanding defence from the home side. The pressure finally told and led to the concession of a penalty which Spells kicked on 65 minutes.
Pic – Rob Healey looks to get his back-line on the move
Old Alleynians won a penalty shortly afterwards, but O’Connor, who kicked well all afternoon, crucially missed. Back came Cornish, who laid siege to the home side’s line. The sheer determination to grind out a result was there for all to see, as the sensational vocal support from the Cornish fans got ever louder. As the game moved into stoppage time, Alleynians could hold back the tide no longer, and conceded a penalty in front of the posts. Luke Spells made the kick, and the game was won.
Whilst Cornish may not have been at their best, it was desire and sheer will to win that got them over the line. Massive respect has to go to Old Alleynians who were impressively stubborn opposition. Equally impressive was the large number of Black & Gold clad support, which surely outnumbered the home support. The 1st XV now focus in on their next game in a fortnight – a massive top of the table clash with Tottonians at The REMPF.