London Cornish 6-19 Tottonians
Report and Photos by Ben Gilby
It was Tottonians who emerged with the spoils from the top of the table London Two South-West clash at The REMPF on Saturday.
The early exchanges were a serious arm-wrestle as these two sides tested each other out – a series of scrums and line-outs finally ended after seven minutes. Cornish were penalised for holding on, and, with the referee playing advantage, Totts put down a major marker by launching an impressive driving maul – something ‘The Exiles’ had not been on the receiving end of this season – as the ball came out, Robbie Searle kicked through, but Robin Heymann managed to end the immediate danger by putting the ball down behind his own line. The referee brought play back for the infringement and Searle’s penalty was successful.
Photo – Cornish skipper Dave Theobald on the charge
Cornish responded well, and launched a period of attacks on the Tottonians line. The visitors could only halt a succession of pick and drives with the concession of a penalty. Phil Dale kicked to touch for a 5m line-out. The visitors snaffled the ball and cleared. However, from a following lineout, Luke Spells fed Phil Dale who took the ball into a maul. Tottonians managed to steal the ball, but knocked-on in doing so. Cornish were awarded the penalty, which Luke Spells kicked to level the scores.
The Black & Golds continued to have the upper hand, with Rich Skinnard making several twinkle-toed runs, and he was combining well with Phil Dale. From one Dale cross-kick, Skinnard was just unable to reach the ball, but play was brought back for a penalty on the ‘22’ to the right of centre, which Spells kicked to give Cornish the lead.
As the game reached the half-hour mark, Tottonians began to establish a foothold. Their lock Ali Ramus, who had played National League rugby for Havant, went barrelling down the right wing. The referee adjudged he was halted illegally, and Robbie Searle stepped up, 18m out, to the left of centre, but he inexplicably missed.
Cornish were now forced into defensive mode. Once more the Hampshire side targeted the right hand side of the pitch, but Cornish managed to grab the ball. Healey’s attempted clearance kick was charged down and Tottonians moved across the pitch, pounding the Cornish line. The defence kept the line intact, but at the cost of a penalty concession. Searle kicked to touch 5m out. From the resulting line-out the Black and Golds pushed back the Totts tide and brilliantly won a penalty to clear.
Photo – Cornish’s Mark Osei-Tutu looking to break out of defence
The final action of the half saw another Totts attack with full-back Bart van Herwijnen breaking several tackles, but his pass only found the touch line. From the resulting line-out, a quite outrageous hand off by Will Carew-Gibbs found Luke Bridges, who in turn fed Matt Hakes, but the move broke down. The half-time whistle followed with Cornish leading 6-3.
The second period opened with Tottonians still in the ascendancy. Lock Ali Ramus led an impressive drive. His ball found Mike Searle, with the referee now playing advantage for Cornish offside. Searle drove for the line, but Cornish defence heroically held him up. Play came back for the penalty, but Robbie Searle missed the kick. However, ‘The Exiles’ line only remained intact for another four minutes. Robbie Searle was now in imperious form – a great kick through saw the ball bounce through the Cornish defence and Searle touched down in the far left hand corner. He managed to add the conversion from an acute angle as Totts went 10-6 in front.
The game was now almost exclusively being played in the Cornish half, but the home side were standing up to the pressure well. Totts’ Dan Stokes fed Robbie Searle, but a great tackle from Rich Skinnard stopped him in his tracks. Shortly afterwards, with Cornish mounting an attack they were penalised for holding on, and Robbie Searle stepped up from 40m out to send the ball between the posts to extend the visitors’ lead to 13-6.
Cornish captain Dave Theobald rallied his troops, and there was an immediate response as the game entered the final fifteen minutes. Luke Spells led a great run down the right, which came to an end with a knock on, but, with advantage being played, Cornish maintained their forward push. For the first time they got a driving maul going, pushing the Hampshire visitors back a real distance, but once more a handling error ended the move. From the resulting penalty, Totts moved the ball around at speed before earning a further penalty 5m from touch, some 20m from the posts which Searle kicked to extend his side’s lead to ten points.
Picture – Cornish winger Matt Hakes tackled by Tottonians’ defence
As the game entered its final period, Cornish began to press, showing character, but they never quite got their usual attacking game going, and consequently the only remaining try scoring chances went Totts way as the visitors gathered possession from a clearance kick attempt, but immense defence from ‘The Exiles’ saved the day. In the final exchanges, Cornish got another maul going, but just as progress looked to be made, Totts earned a penalty which Searle kicked, five metres out from touch.