Report & photos by Ben Gilby
An immensely impressive effort by One And All in the Black and Gold defence ensured that London Cornish came away from Old Reigatian with the win.
Despite overnight rain and a constant drizzle falling throughout the game which rendered the Surrey Hills that encircle Reigate almost invisible, the pitch held up well (something which the 2s may be slightly jealous of given their mudbath of an encounter against Reigatian on a back pitch), but it did mean than handling the ball was very difficult, with knock-ons occurring at a regular interval, particularly in the first half.
Cornish had to make a late re-jig of their forward line as Dave Theobald, who was to start, moved to the bench due to suffering from ‘flu. Tom Lloyd took the tighthead shirt instead of his planned position of loosehead, and Mike Bond moved up from the replacements list to start in the vacant loosehead berth. There were also two players making their first start for the club in Matt Johnson and Jackson Szabo. Additionally, Luke Spells was back in the centres for the first time since 31st January. The game started with a gusty breeze blowing against Cornish, who were resplendent in their eye catching change colours of gold shirts with thin black hoops.
Photo – Harry Somers climbs high to secure the ball
It was the visitors who had the first opportunity when Johnson combined with Ben Devonport and Simon Brading down the left wing from a stolen line-out. The move was snuffed out by a loose pass.
It was immediately apparent that the slippery nature of the ball would provide a serious hurdle to any flowing rugby, or to many scoring chances, and the first quarter of an hour consisted of scrummages as a result of knock-ons. When chances did emerge, they generally fell the way of ‘The Exiles’, and with Ben Ievers in excellent line-out stealing form once more, a rolling maul was launched which made some vital metres. When the ball came out, Williams fed Spells, who made a trademark probing run, before offloading to Harry Somers. The former Cornish Pirate won a penalty. Allison kicked to touch, and Cornish were five metres from the Reigatian try-line. The expected maul was halted illegally, which resulted in a home forward being dispatched to the sin-bin – the first of a number of yellow cards that would be brandished during the game. The home side defended the resulting penalty well, and their winger Huw Jones ran the ball clear of danger.
Other than a series of further line-out steals by Cornish, there were few opportunities for either side which didn’t end with a knock-on, such was the slipperiness of the ball. Indeed, it would be fair to say that, in the second quarter of the game, there were only two real scoring opportunities, which both fell the way of the Black and Golds. First, a great flowing move which begun with Harry Somers feeding the jet-heeled Jackson Szabo, who after making the hard yards fed Phil Dale. He led an interchange of passes with Luke Spells and Matt Hakes, before the ball returned to Szabo. The winger’s progress was halted just five metres short of the line by an outstanding tackle from home winger Teo Bogdanon.
Rich Skinnard also led a Cornish charge with nine minutes of the half remaining, when his progress could only be stopped illegally. The resulting penalty was kicked for a five metre line-out, but the chance went. So, half-time saw the rather unusual scoreline of 0-0!
The second half saw the home side, coached by former Worcester and Esher player Jonny Hylton in the ascendancy. A series of penalties piggy-backed them up the field, but their undoing was once more in the line-out – this time an attempted throw to the front of the line was stolen by Will Carew-Gibbs. From this, Cornish worked their way up field and earned a penalty of their own – thus after 44 minutes, the very first kick at goal was launched, from around 40 metres, but Josh Allison’s effort didn’t quite have the legs. Shortly afterwards saw both sides reduced to fourteen. Cornish’s reduced defence was quickly tested when home winger Huw Jones ran through, but Harry Somers expertly dealt with the danger.
Photo – Jackson Szabo probes in the centre
It was the line-out that propelled Cornish forward once more, and once Ievers secured it, Sam Williams hacked the ball through. Reigatian were forced to put the ball out. From the resulting throw, a huge Cornish maul could only be stopped with the concession of another penalty. This was kicked to touch, and the ‘Exiles’ maul was once more revved up, with Reigatian forced backwards until Harry Somers could ground the ball, which subsequently woke up the scoreboard operator from his slumber on 55 minutes. Allison added the extras, and Cornish were up and running at 7-0.
Shortly afterwards, it looked as if there would be another score when, following an Reigatian error, Matt Hakes kicked through and gathered, but was not able to ground the ball.
This let-off served to spur the home side on, and they were set to dominate the next fifteen minutes or so. Teo Bogdanon’s run saw him link up with centre Chris Bruce before an outstanding hit from Cornish’s ex Premiership man Simon Brading saved the day. However, back came Reigatian, and it was Bogdanon who again led the charge down the left. A series of recycles saw the Cornish defence halt the Old Boys, but in doing so, a number of penalties were conceded, a run of which led to the second visiting forward being dispatched to the sin-bin. From the resulting scrum, Cornish’s back line showed that regardless of the fact that they were a man short, they would not be dominated, and quite magnificently won a penalty immediately to clear. With Reigatian now permanently encamped in the Cornish ‘22’, the home side could have been forgiven for thinking that it was only a matter of time before they scored. But they reckoned without the ‘Black and Gold’ determination keep their hosts out. Ed Forsyth had a further opportunity for the Surrey side with his run down the left, but once more slippery ball prevented further progress, and Cornish, now back to fifteen had ensured their line remained unbreached.
The remaining seven minutes saw Cornish as an attacking force, as they put together their longest period of concerted pressure since the opening quarter. Rich Skinnard made an excellent run down the right, and Reigatian managed to clear, but ‘The Exiles’ were soon back in range. Simon Brading broke through the middle and earned a penalty, which Josh Allison successfully kicked from 30 metres out to the right of centre.
From the restart, the Black and Golds gathered, and Jackson Szabo launched forward at an impressive rate of knots, his offload resulted in the game’s decisive moment as Sam Williams dived over for the second try. Allison added the extras as the lead went out to 17-0. There was still time for another sin-binning for each side, but this produced no further scoring.
Cornish remain in second place in London Two South-West, with four matches left, having won their last eight league games. Old Reigatian will feel that the scoreline was rather harsh on them, and that they could (or indeed should) have got a losing bonus point. It is also a quite incredible fact given the way both games between the two sides have gone this season, that Old Reigatian have not scored in either game against ‘The Exiles’. Whilst this was not a game that may live long in the memory of London Cornish supporters, it is winning games like this which can make all the difference come the end of the season.