London Cornish scaled the heights of the North Downs looking to continue their reign at the top of London Two South West, only to find themselves toppled by last minute, last kick of the game heartbreak reports Mark Digby.
The league leaders were in confident mood, facing a Warlingham side yet to experience home success this season. Cornish started off like an express train, determined to make their mark, and from the kick off, they spent the first twenty minutes of the game camped in opposition territory, and the majority of this around a small portion of the field in the far corner on Warl’s five metre line.
Despite numerous attempts to expand play across the width of the pitch, the Black and Gold were sucked back into the same corner time after time. Three significant factors to consider for this apparent vacuum of territory – 1. Weather – swirling wind and rain. 2. Sir’s management of the scrum and ensuing breakdown. 3. Warlingham’s excellent defence.
Following this long period of skulduggery and pitch wearing, the home side finally breached the half way line, only for Cornish to regain possession and return back to the far corner within around fifteen seconds. Constant pressure from the Black and Gold’s traditional Cornish bossing of the packs led to a Warlingham forward being sent to the sin bin for ten.
Just as the home side thought they had successfully rode the storm of being short handed, Cornish would finally gain the score their superior possession and territory deserved. In a rare spell of play on the opposite side of the field, Ciaran Acford collected the ball from yet another scrum, and squeezed his way through the seemingly impenetrable home defence to score his third try of the season. Unfortunately Luke Spells’ conversion attempt went wide of the posts. 0-5.
Photo Ciaran Acford squeezes in
The visitors would go into the break with their lead increased further. Black and Gold pressure saw them awarded a penalty which was kicked across the pitch, taking play back into the home twenty two on the now well worn far side. A wonderfully executed catch and drive move from the line out, saw the Cornish pack advance fifteen metres. Mark Osei-Tutu found a rare gap and crossed the line, but with the ball adjudged to have been held up, a chink in Warl’s armour was found following a five metre scrum. Sam Williams received the ball to surge across the line, and this time the score would count to open the scrum half’s account for the season. Spells was this time successful in adding the extras to make the score 0-12.
Photo – lineout action
The wind would seek to work in Warlingham’s favour in the second half. As Cornish did in the opening period of the game, the hosts found greater possession and territory, and a reshuffle in their pack appeared to galvanise their resolve and confidence. As they gained the upper hand, Cornish would begin to concede what became a series of penalties to the opposition. Home full back Joe McEvoy had an opportunity to reduce the lead from the boot. His attempt missed the goal, but he would make no mistake shortly after. The ball was struck from the wing with accuracy and aplomb to make the score 3-12.
With growing confidence, ‘The Mighty Warl’ gave a fine display of attacking rugby. Following a scrum in the centre of the park, Dave Thornton went on a powerful, mazy run surging 30 metres before a Black and Gold tackle at the five metre mark. However, quick ball saw Jack Atkinson fed to score a deserved try for the hosts. With McEvoy again successful with the conversion, the score was now 10-12, and the game on a knife edge.
Photo – Mark Osei-Tutu sets off on another run
London Cornish responded positively, with a ten minute spell of sustained pressure, with around half of that period spent camped on the home try line. Again Osei-Tutu crossed the line only for the ball to be held up by the stubborn Warl defence. Despite some calls for a penalty try from Cornish following numerous infractions at the breakdown. Warl eventually regained possession and territory, and on 66 minutes, earned a penalty to take the lead for the first time in the game. McEvoy’s boot turned the score around to 13-12.
Three minutes later, McEvoy spurned a chance to extend the home lead. Following much prevarication by the referee and some of the players following a possible knock on and a bout of hangbags in the Cornish half, a penalty was awarded, but the full back could not find the posts.
With the clock running down and four minutes left to play, It was Cornish’s time to create pressure to earn themselves a penalty, after a Warlingham player was adjudged to be not rolling away, and Spells made no mistake from his boot to regain the lead 15-13. Tension rose to match the altitude level. Could the spirit of Trelawny carry the Black and Gold to a fifth successive league win? Alas, no.
The reliable boot of McEvoy would put paid to ambitions, as Cornish were penalised for holding on. From 37 metres, the ball was despatched perfectly to send Cornish home with their first defeat, but with at least a losing bonus point as reward for their endeavours.
Photos by Ben Gilby.