Cornish victory extends Combe's run of losses
By John Vallely
London Cornish 27-17 Westcombe Park RFC
With the score at 10-7 in Combe's favour at the break there was the faint stirring of optimism that the Goddington Dene side could start 2019 on a victorious note. However Cornish had a different perspective and first of all clawed their way back into the match, took the lead for a brief period before Combe equalised at the start of the final quarter. Cornish then closed out the match with a penalty try and a converted penalty to deny Westcombe Park the consolation of a losing bonus point.
Bradley Saffrey on the left wing started the match strongly for Combe with a 60 metre run on the 5 minute mark stopped by a try saving covering tackle from Cornish. Saffrey was involved minutes later with another surge down the left and, from the breakdown, the ball was quickly recycled for Matt Harrison to score out wide. The conversion went narrowly wide.
Cornish hit back and, although one penalty for Combe not releasing was missed, the next, when the visitors infringed on the line following a loss line out, was not. 3-5 in favour of Combe.
With 16 minutes gone the crowd had a first glimpse of Dan Hamilton's prowess in evading and breaking tackles but the next score came after a powerful break from flanker George Milligan which brought Combe into the danger zone. When the ball was moved left Saffrey was on hand to stretch over the line for a well executed score. The conversion slid wide to leave Combe with a 10-3 advantage.
5 minutes of the half remained when another Milligan charge made good metres but the move was halted by a high tackle from Cornish which was deemed worthy of a yellow card. The ensuing penalty was missed and it was Cornish who ended the half more strongly with a couple of driving mauls threatening the Combe line the second being held up over the line. The visitors could heave a sigh of relief as the referee blew for the break.
London Cornish RFC 3-10 Westcombe Park RFC
Cornish started the second period as strongly as they finished the first making light of the yellow card. A good Cornish break was halted by a strong tackle but the homeside had improved their ball retention compared with the earlier period. They had also identified the driving maul as a key weapon and with 50 minutes gone a 15 metre drive put the Combe defence on the back foot allowing the ball to be moved out wide for Cornish's left wing to score. The conversion brought the scores levels 10-10.
5 minutes later Cornish repeated the dose this time on the right touchline. The ball was moved inside this time for a score close to the posts and the conversion gave the home side a 17-10 advantage.
Combe to their credit hit back quickly. Pohlen and Milligan both made surges in the middle of the park which freed up room for the ball to get to Hamilton who showed great pace to run in from 40 metres for a try which was converted by Harrison to bring the scores level.
Cornish saw yellow for a second time a couple of minutes later when an over exuberant maul defence was not to the referee's liking. But it was the South West London side who seemed to make this count as first they thrust down Combe's right where the slope had produced three scores already and then put the pressure on at a 5m scrum where they referee had a choice of offences to penalise. He decided that a hand in the scrum would do and ran under the posts to award the penalty try.
Combe strived in vain to overturn the deficit knowing that a try would not only give them the draw but also a 4 try bonus point. But it was Cornish who scored through a penalty with a couple of minutes to go when Combe were caught offside in front of the posts.
A disappointing afternoon for Combe who couldn't take advantage of an opposition down to 14 men a couple of times. The pressure seemed to impact decision making where ball control rather than kicking might have brought a score or two. Credit to Cornish who managed the game to their strengths in the second period.
Back to Goddington Dene next Saturday for the visit of Chobham.
Westcombe Park RFC: Eames, Holland, Fernandez, Delderfield, O'Sullivan, Milligan, Pohlen, Pass, Donovan, Harding, Sansbury, Hamilton, Harrison, Saffrey, Church-Mills
Replacements: Simmons T, Smith, Dennett
Match Report:John Vallely