Red hot start & finish sees off Vandals

Report & Photos by Ben Gilby

London Cornish head into the London Two South Promotion Play-Off on the back of a 41-17 win at Weybridge Vandals this afternoon.

The game was a rather strange affair in so far that Cornish scored thirty-one of their forty-one points in either the opening twelve minutes or the final twelve minutes – in between there was very little of note for the good number of visiting supporters to enjoy – other than the glorious spring sunshine and the hog roast on offer on the patio of The Vandals clubhouse!

Any thoughts that The Black & Golds would be distracted by the upcoming London Two South promotion play-off game were dispelled as they took the lead within 55 seconds. A super break from Craig Chatley saw Weybridge struggle to hold back the pacy attack, and a recycle saw Harry Somers over the line. Josh Allison kicked the conversion and it was 7-0.

It took only six more minutes for Cornish to extend their lead when a clearance kick from Vandals’ Darren Lockyer was caught by Josh Allison. The ball found its way to Matt Hakes, who galloped through the centre, with any number of home defenders trailing in his wake, an offload to Tim Homan saw further yards made before a final pass put in Robin Heymann to score with ease. The conversion attempt missed.

At this stage, it seemed as if Cornish could score at will, and the third try came after just 12 minutes. Phil Dale weaved through the midfield before putting in Will Carew-Gibbs, and the hooker rampaged through the ’22’ to score an exceptional effort. Allison added the extras, and the score-line was now 19-0.

An absolute cricket score looked highly likely at this point, but Weybridge, to their credit established an immediate foothold in the game shortly after. An impressive move between Cassian Bramham-Law, James Wellden, Craig Decoteau and Dave Stewart saw a large number of metres made. Cornish may have snaffled the ball, but the territory made in this move would prove to be a telling factor as, shortly afterwards, Vandals won a penalty at the scrum and winger Harry Reed dived over to score. Ryan Humphrey’s conversion missed.

The try caused a major change in momentum as Weybridge enjoyed the majority of possession in the last twenty minutes of the first half. Therefore, it was not a surprise when they managed to get another try back after 36 minutes. A poor pass by Cornish was taken by Cassian Bramham-Law, who combined with Dave Loubser. The move was stopped by ‘The Exiles’, but only with the concession of a five metre scrum. From this, number eight Darren Livett grounded the ball. Humphrey missed the conversion, and ‘The Black & Gold’s’ lead was reduced to 19-10 at half-time.

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Photo – Rich Skinnard streaks away from the Vandals’ cover

Cornish started the second half on the front foot, with Harry Somers at the heart of most of the best play during this time. Ten minutes into the second half, they managed to extend their lead as, from a scrum, a mighty shove in the maul saw Tim Homan ground the ball. Josh Allison added the extras, and the score was out to 26-10.

However, the visitors went back into their shells after this score, with Weybridge regaining their hold on the game once more, and from another scrum gained close to the posts, Darren Livett dived over to score his second of the game for The Vandals. Ryan Humphrey kicked his first conversion of the game, and the game was back in the mix again at 26-17.

As the match entered the final quarter, it became increasingly physical and there were a number of incidents which, on another day, could have seen cards of either colour brandished by the referee – however, on this occasion, the official kept his cards firmly tucked away in his pocket. With eight minutes left, Cornish were handed a penalty in a central position, which Josh Allison successfully kicked to extend the lead to 29-17, and extinguish any hopes Weybridge may have had of ending their season with a win.

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Photo – winger Robin Heymann fends off a tackle

There was over ten minutes of stoppage time played at the end of the game, and Cornish came good once more with some quite sparkling play which proved that, when ‘The Black and Golds’ played remotely near their best, Vandals could simply not cope with them. After a sensational interplay between Allison, Hakes and Lloyd, the visitors were pinged for not releasing. However, Weybridge’s attempt at clearing their lines only saw the ball run back. Harry Somers and Rich Skinnard combined before the referee ended the attack for crossing. Once more Vandals could not clear successfully, and Rich Skinnard stepped on the gas to obliterate the home side’s defence and score a glorious try. The conversion from Josh Allison missed.

There was still time for one further try for ‘The Exiles’, and what another superb one it was. Weybridge were on the front foot, and were well inside the Cornish ’22’ – a poor pass was knocked-on and picked up by Rich Skinnard who had the time and space to show his quite staggering turn of pace. A 70 metre run of incredible speed was never going to be stopped and he grounded the ball for the sixth Exiles try of the afternoon. Josh Allison had the last say of the afternoon with his conversion.

London Cornish finish the season in second place in London Two South-West, their highest ever league placing. They now have a free weekend ahead of them to prepare for the trip to Rochester on 25th April to take on Medway in the London Two South Promotion Play-Off match – quite possibly the biggest match in our club’s 52 year history.

Posted in Bill's Blog

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