Match Report: London Cornish 25 – 6 Effingham & Leatherhead
London Two South West by Mark Digby, photo Ben Gilby
Following last Saturday’s late heartbreak high upon the hills of the North Downs, London Cornish returned to the REMPF aiming not to crash down to earth with a second successive defeat. Any fears were abated as the Exiles fortress remained intact, with patience being the key to a 25-6 victory over visitors Effingham and Leatherhead.
A mild, crisp autumn afternoon provided the calm for Cornish to start on the front foot from the kick off, and in almost a repeat of seven days earlier, they would again dominate possession and territory for much of the first half. Early pressure would soon bear fruit when after just four minutes, Effingham and Leatherhead conceded a penalty for Luke Spells to despatch successfully from the boot to strike three upon the scoreboard in his side’s favour.
Within minutes, an exchange of kickable penalties for both sides attempted to define the game but to no avail. Cornish would, as in previous weeks, find themselves their own worst enemy by allowing the Eagles’ Brian Collins two chances to punish them. However, they were fortunate not to be behind, as Collins could only find success with just one from two between the half way and forty metre lines, and with Spells also replying from the boot at Sir’s behest, the Exiles would regain the lead at 6-3 after less than fifteen minutes.
The remainder of the half would see a familiar pattern. Cornish continued to dominate both possession and territory, but a resolute and very well organised defensive effort from the visitors firmly put up the ‘No Entry’ sign, as the Black and Gold attack could advance no further than 15 metres from the Eagles’ line. The visitors themselves offered infrequent charges into enemy territory, only to also be repelled by stubborn defence, as they failed to penetrate the opposition twenty two. Spells had a chance to further the lead from a penalty on the half hour, but was unsuccessful for the first time in the game.
Half time came with the score remaining 6-3 to Cornish. Was the ghost of Warlingham about to haunt the spirit of Trelawny?
In the early exchanges of the second half, the spectre seemed to be appearing, as Effingham and Leatherhead began to shake off the shackles of the first forty minutes. Either side of an enforced fifteen minute break, due to a knee dislocation suffered by the Eagles’ No.8, the visitors began to push Cornish back as far as five metres from the line. With Spells again unable to find his kicking boots with an early penalty attempt, and Collins despatching his second successful kick, the spirit of the Might Warl was becoming ever apparent, as the scores were level after 54 minutes.
However, the Black and Gold had other ideas, and hatched a plan to exorcise the ghost from the hills. Successive changes from the bench were made with Rich Fisher replacing Harry Somers, and Phil Dale making his comeback after injury, to swap places with Joe Skinnard at Fly Half. The alterations appeared to be what was required, as Cornish found renewed impetus following the re-start.
Patience was finally rewarded, as it would prove to be pretty much one way traffic for the final twenty five minutes. Continued pressure from the Exile’s pack would force errors from the visitor’s, as fatigue began to set into the Eagle’s previously resolute defensive wall. On the hour, a penalty was awarded that Dale opted to kick towards the corner. Mark Osei-Tutu attempted to peel off the back off the Cornish pack following the line out, but was thwarted yet again. However, Cornish regrouped and formed another rolling maul which, from twenty metres, could not be stopped. Chris Anstey touched the ball down for try number one, in a move that any great Cornish team of the past, and indeed future, would be proud of. Unfortunately, Spells could not convert, but at 11-6, a gap was appearing that would only grow.
Patience finally brought confidence, momentum, and finally just reward, as relentless Cornish pressure continued to wear down the visitors. With ten minutes to go, Anstey crossed the line again in a similar move to the first try, this time a huge shove from the Black and Gold from ten metres. Spells rediscovered his kicking compass to add the extras, 18-6.
However, Cornish were not finished, and on the stroke of full time, Osei-Tutu would add the cherry on the cake with a fine twenty metre dash, following more forward pressure to dive under the posts, and score his seventh try of the season. Spells again converted to make a final score of 25-6 to the Exiles. The ghost was vanquished as Cornish solidified second place in London Two South West.
London Cornish Director of Rugby, Dickon Moon gave his thoughts after the game:
“It was a very similar performance to recent weeks, but what I was really pleased about, was that we defended a lot better today. We had to stop giving away kickable penalties, and I was very pleased that we kept Effingham and Leatherhead down to a few long pots at goal. They are a tricky side, and will definitely be top four/five this year, and have improved and recruited very well, so we can be really pleased with 25-6, as last week’s defeat shook everyone, which Warlingham deserved (the win). Onward and upwards with 25 points from a possible 30 in the first six games, which we’ve got to be happy with.
Some lessons learnt from last week, as maybe we could have taken a few more shots at goal, but Warlingham defended superbly. It was the right result, and it gave us a good shake up. What was good for us, was that we had Phil Dale back today following his operation in the summer. We’ll have more depth at nine and ten, plus we have other players to come back in the forthcoming weeks. Given our position, and that historically we improve as the season goes on, this is very encouraging.
Farnham (away next week) had a great season last year, and gave Totton a tough game last week. We will look at selection, as I anticipate another tough day at the office, but we will certainly give them something to think about, and look forward to visiting their new ground.”