Third Bonus Point win in a row for Combe
By John Vallely
Westcombe Park RFC 37-17 Cobham RFC
There was a fair degree of cohesion in the way Combe played this match with the various units; half-backs, back row etc executing their game plan and working together to produce what was ultimately a comfortable victory. That is not to say that the home side weren't tested at various junctures by visitors Cobham especially when playing periods of the game down to 13 or14 players.
Combe started very much on the front foot, and returning fly half James Cameron put the first points on the board through a well struck penalty after Cobham were penalised at an attacking scrum. Better was to come with 5 minutes gone when wing Bradley Saffrey from 40 metres out beat the first defender, then sat down the second with a powerful fend to cross the line in the right corner. In the blustery conditions the conversion was missed but Combe now led 8-0.
The home team's scrum was dominant and the pack were winning the gain line collisions with evergreen flanker James Lindfield to the fore. The attacking momentum paid off when Dan Hamilton made one of his trademark runs evading and wriggling free from tackles. When he was finally stopped there was a quick clear out at the ruck and scrum half Jake Donovan was on hand to score his debut Combe try.
Cobham then managed to build a degree of pressure of their own and Combe needed to concede several penalties to slow the visitors down. A clever cross field kick went to hand and, with the defence stretched, Cobham dotted down and the conversion was added to narrow the gap to 13-7.
25 minutes had gone when Combe scored their next try. Prop Gabri Fernandez cleared out powerfully at a ruck giving the backs good clean ball. They took full advantage when first Saffrey made a powerful run down the right, got the ball to fellow wing Hamilton who was clever in the tackle to stretch and plonk the ball over the line. Cameron added a difficult conversion; 20-7 for Combe.
It took only 3 more minutes for Combe to add another try for the bonus point. Combe's lineout was functioning effectively after some rusty performances recently. Hooker Ken Onwuka found captain Charlie O'Sullivan and the ball was moved infield for Matt Harrison to steer a mazy route through the defence for the try near the posts. Cameron slotted the conversion and at 27-7 it looked as though Combe were clear.
However the last 10 minutes belonged to the visitors when they scored on the 30 minute mark despite a valiant tackle from Harry Sansbury . A further try followed a couple of minutes later when a Combe attack ended with an interception by stand off Farrelly who ran the length of the pitch to score. Both conversions were missed but Cobham had clawed their way back into the match at 27-17.
Combe started the second half with 14 players. Shortly before the halftime whistle some physical rumbustiousness by Combe was penalised by the referee. Combe then went down to 13 men when a high tackle earned the sin bin sanction.
The match had become a bit turgid as the home side were forced on the back foot due to lack of numbers but the visitors didn't produce any creative spark to capitalise on their advantage. In fact it was Combe who managed to score with 50 minutes gone when another aggressive clear out from Fernandez following a Hamilton run produced good ball for Sansbury to run in Combe's fifth try. 5 minutes later the match was put beyond Cobham's reach when centre Sean Beckett scored his debut Combe try with a strong run through the Cobham defence. 37-17 to Combe.
There was no further scoring despite Cobham taking advantage of the favourable wind to pound away at a resilient Combe defence. Pohlen and Dennett and the Simmons brothers were first amongst equals in a pack that put in a hard shift at the coalface. Combe continued to keep Cobham scoreless despite doing down to 14 men when a third yellow card was shown deep in the Cobham half for not retreating at a tap penalty.
A third win on the bounce for Westcombe Park and a pleasing all round performance from a team showing more sectorial stability after a torrid period injury wise. Next home game at Goddington Dene is on 2 February in the Kent cup against Sidcup and then down the road for the derby against Sevenoaks on 9 February.
Westcombe Park RFC: Fernandez, Onwuka, Simmons T, O'Sullivan, Dennett, Pohlen, Lindfield, Pass, Donovan, Cameron, Saffrey, Harrison, Atiola, Hamilton, Sansbury
Replacements: Simmons, J, Beckett, Smith
Match Report: John Vallely