London Cornish (a)

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Date Time Competition
April 1, 2017 2:00 pm London 2 South West

“Tough times don’t last, tough teams do.”

The Indian Summer of 2015 was apparent on a barmy Barnes afternoon, even the Canadian geese were in fine voice as the Exiles trickled down to take the field. A surprise appearance from the ladies in Cooky’s life helped intensify moral and the pre match warm up. Great to see in the absence of the ever present Kirsty Turnball of the 2014-2015 season.

 Portsmouth RFC utilized their size from the off. A penalty, conceded by the Exiles (an ever present theme to the game), was duly knocked over by their fly half. Whilst I’m on the subject of their numero diez I must praise him for his extraordinary pre kick routine. Well choreographed, patient and generally he had good results.

After these 3 points were conceded the Exiles roared back. Some hard running from Matt Sheppard, Jack Read and Neil Criggie put pressure on the Portsmouth defence. Penalty conceded by Portsmouth. Tit for Tat.

Again. Another penalty to the Es, who were getting themselves into this game. A merry go round of kickers have been used so far this season but today it was the duty of Mr Angry, Will Banbury. Not known to convert off the pitch, he set out converting nicely on it with another shot from the opposition’s 10 meter line. 6 – 3.

It was good to see Jack Sawbridge taking his touch judge skills seriously. Jack (a long term fan of Nigel Owens) takes no prisoners when it comes to running the line. He reminded the opposition hooker exactly where the ‘mark’ was in slightly unusual refereeing terms. The back 3 #bombdisposalsquad dealt with the high ball well and counter attacked with some elusive running from the like of Cooky, Baynesy and Turky, however, the last pass never seemed to stick. This again was a constant theme throughout the 80 minutes.

After some honest words at half time the Exiles came out strong. Callender took the ball forward and off loaded nicely to Will Banbury carving through a hole. Some better rugby was being played. Paz feigned, stepped and lifted a ball for the oncoming Theakston down the blind side. He galloped down the left hand touch line like a thoroughbred. Cooky was struggling to keep up, Theakston was off! 2 men to beat. A 2 on 1 on v their winger… Dummy! The winger went and Theakston playing a heads up brand carried on! The first hurdle dealt with but unfortunately some good defence saw Theaks fall at the final furlong. With this good front foot ball the Exiles squandered an opportunity to put more points on the board.

After some stale mate and additional warfare another penalty was awarded. Banbury accordingly topped the tally up to 9-3.

Indiscipline let the Exiles down and penalty put them on our 5 metre. Their bigger pack produced a well oiled driving maul. The afters missed. The Exiles clung on top a lead of 1 point. 9-8. Not for long. The fly half in his zen state managed to find the uprights this time. 11-9.

The Exiles had to give it everything now and they did, however, sloppy play and indiscipline kept creeping back in. Greg Palmer hit a Jamie Robertesq line off the lineout carving way for Ben Sawbs to march on. Banbury came around the corner and lofted a ball over the top, some quick hands gave Turk a dash for the line but the scramble defence covered well.

Like an old lady with a Bullmastiff the Exiles have a habit of not being able to hold onto a lead. The final score concluded 11 points to 9 to Portsmouth RFC. A hard fought game, it was a lesson to learn in discipline and patience for the Exiles. Credit to the naval folk of Portsmouth. Their 8 carried well, their 12 resembled a Celtic warrior and their full back had a good step off his left (and right).

The brutal truth of knock out rugby, as England found out, is that you don’t get another chance. London SW2 offers you another chance… the following week. The Exiles, like Rich Oliver, have shown in previous seasons that they’re slow starters out of the blocks but also like Rich Oliver they pick up momentum and become increasingly hard to stop. The Exiles now need to go keep building and improving throughout the season. I have no doubt we will.

 London Cornish (a)