Report & Photo by Ben Gilby
On a warm afternoon in Motspur Park, the hosts showed their intent from the start when driving Cornish back impressively from an early penalty – this was just the beginning of some good forward play from KCS, who had Harlequins hooker Joe Gray on the touchline as part of their coaching team.
‘The Exiles’, fielding six new faces in their starting line-up, came back into it when Luke Spells, returning to the squad for the first time since the end of March, linked up with Ben Ievers and Owen Bater, but possession was lost, and KCS made several metres before being awarded a penalty. Shortly afterwards, the home side gained the opening score when an excellent display of running rugby saw the ball recycled nine times in a move which their excellent centre George Taylor was particularly prominent ahead of the final grounding. Rory Jones added the extras as KCS went 7-0 up after 14 minutes.
Importantly, Cornish responded shortly afterwards as they won a penalty on the ‘Old Boys’ 22 metre line. Up stepped Spells for a vital three points which took him over the 500 point mark for the club. However, any hope that the visiting supporters may have had that this would see the start of a period of concerted Cornish pressure was soon dispelled as that man Taylor fed Edward Forshaw. The KCS winger went on an unstoppable, rampaging run to score a quite magnificent try. Rory Jones added the extras, and with 21 minutes played the home side’s lead was out to 14-3.
The Black and Golds hit back within minutes once more following a scrum; Mark Osei-Tutu played in Tom Baker who won a penalty when KCS failed to roll away. Spells’ kick from the middle was successful and the score was now 14-6 after 26 minutes.
Despite Cornish hitting the two penalties in quick succession after KCS scoring, there is absolutely no doubt that the hosts were enjoying far more possession and territory. They are a side renowned for brilliant backs play, but on this showing, it would appear they have a good set of forwards too, who were causing ‘The Exiles’ all sorts of problems, and a Cornish forward was dispatched to the sin-bin on 30 minutes. Shortly afterwards the home side won a penalty, and Jones made his third successful kick of the afternoon to extend his side’s lead to 17-6.
As the half entered its last five minutes of regular time, Cornish began to get a slight foothold in the game, on the back of a success of several penalties. From the last of which, Jackson Szabo kicked to touch and ‘The Exiles’ finally drove the home side back, added to this they were awarded a penalty and a KCS forward was sin-binned. The penalty was again kicked to touch and in an action replay of the previous action, the referee showed a yellow card to another home forward. Now playing against thirteen men, it was only a matter of time before Cornish finally breached the ‘Old Boys’ line, and great play from Chris Anstey put in Rich Skinnard for the try. Spells conversion attempt missed, and KCS’ lead had been hauled back to 17-11 at the break.
Not surprisingly, still with a two man advantage, it was Cornish who had much of opening exchanges in the second half. An early attack resulted in a five metre scrum, which set the foundation for a promising attack, but as a try looked certain, the ball was knocked on over the line. The pendulum was still in the black and gold favour, and with the home side under intense pressure, they were penalised for a forward pass behind their own try line. From the five metre scrum, the ball was played out to Rich Skinnard, who fed Jackson Szabo, and the pacy full-back ran in to score. Spells missed the conversion, but the KCS lead was now just a single point.
Back to their full compliment, KCS, whilst never quite at their level of the first half performance, began to trouble the visitors again. Crucially, the next score went their way as Rory Jones slotted over another penalty which was awarded after great link play between JJ Kilmartin and Edward Forshaw.
Cornish responded and launched another drive led by Tim Homan. The ball found its way out to debutant Andy Nicholls who was tackled into touch. The resulting line-out saw Owen Bater link with Mark Osei-Tutu who was stopped by a high tackle. Whilst the referee initially played advantage, he eventually came back and showed a yellow card for the tackle. The resulting penalty was kicked to touch and Tim Homan grabbed the ball and ran through to score. Spells’ conversion missed, but Cornish were now in front for the first time all afternoon 21-20.
With a quarter of an hour left an unlikely victory looked a possibility. But, to their credit, KCS came back. A succession of penalties piggy-backed them up the pitch, and, with three minutes to go, a quick tap was taken, and the ball passed to fly-half Will Slater who dived over. Rory Jones stepped up for his fifth successful kick out of five, and KCS Old Boys had recorded a deserved victory.