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Tight game, could have gone either way...

Gravesend RFC 24pts - 27pts Cobham RFC

25th October 2008

Gravesend will rue a number of missed chances after a highly competitive encounter with Cobham at the Rectory Field. The Surrey side left Kent (not Essex for those that are geographically challenged) enjoying a win after a contest that perhaps, in all honesty, they should have lost.

From the kick off Cobham showed the type of play that has seen them move up to third in the League, good driving play from the forwards led to Gravesend conceding an offside penalty, which the young Jones-Davies confidently converted to give an early lead. A similar infringement by Cobham saw a well struck penalty by Gray bring the scores back to parity.

Penalties seemed the order of the day, the diminutive referee being a stickler for the Laws, which allowed Cobham to take the first decent set of points of the day and which eventually frustrated player and spectator alike. Gravesend transgressed on their 10m line and Jones-Davies attempted an ambitious penalty kick into a strong headwind, with the ball sliding past the face of the posts and bouncing in the dead ball area. Gravesend were unaware of the Cobham speedster, Blackmore, who leapt high into the air to claim the ball and score to the left of the posts, duly converted by Jones-Davies.  Gravesend looked for someone to blame. Cobham felt it was perhaps their day.

With the score at 3-10, both sides enjoyed some good possession with Gravesend unlucky not to have scored through their second row Abbey. A last ditch tackle by the Cobham skipper, Davison, put enough doubt in the referee’s mind to adjudge that the ball had been held up over the line. A lucky let off for Cobham.

Neither side really got into a good rhythm, both sides played disjointed rugby with perhaps Gravesend beginning to exert the greater pressure although they were unable to fully capitalise on some strong running from both forwards and backs. A penalty goal was little consolation for their efforts. Frustration was felt by both sides and the game became increasingly fractious leading to various off the ball incidents and exchange of blows between the two sides – something that perhaps should have been better managed by the referee.

Cobham did well to contain both the opposition and the elements. After some good defensive work crisp handling by the Cobham back line, which has been a hallmark of their play over the season to date, released Sutton down the left wing and whose pace left the Gravesend defence flat footed for a converted try. Against the run of play perhaps, but in League rugby you have to take your chances.

The half time turnaround with a strong wind at their back should have made life easier for Cobham, but Gravesend upped their game immediately after the break, forcing Cobham to defend strongly and at times desperately. A failure to clear the line saw the Gravesend backs combine well to cut through the defence and score for an unconverted try. In riposte Cobham tried to find their game of fast ruck ball that combines both forwards and backs, and having ventured into the Gravesend half and were awarded a penalty that Jones-Davies converted.

When playing with their accustomed pace Cobham are a good side, one which Gravesend only had glimpses of and neither side were able to exert total dominance in the game. Cobham should have made more use of the elements and played rugby in the opponents half, eschewing the kicking game and the potential for long clearance kicks deep into the opposition half for belief in the pace of the back line and loose forwards. A risky ploy and perhaps one that was going to be the visitor’s downfall?

In the final quarter a try by the Gravesend centre, followed soon after by a penalty, saw the home side take the lead at 24-20 and the home supporter’s sensed victory, while the quartet of Cobham supporters started planning a dejected trip home.

Maybe the prospect of a second League loss was enough to concentrate the minds of the Cobham players and rather than running from their 22, judicious use of the boot saw them pin the home side in their own half.

Having spent some considerable time defending against an organised attack, it was now Cobham’s turn to turn the screw; notable performances in defence by Davison, Durwood and the replacement Johnson, turned into foraging runs that stretched the Gravesend defence leading to yet another penalty. Cobham’s Pickett secured good possession at the ensuing lineout on the right hand side of the pitch, short of the 22. The forwards drove forward, coping well with the attempts to collapse the maul, a particularly negative aspect of the ELVs, and then released the ball to the expectant back line who came up only metres short. The ball was recycled to the centre McCallum who took on the Gravesend back row and was again stopped short. Quick recycled ball was spread to the backline where centre Fisher (Man of the Match for Cobham) much to the chagrin of the home crowd, dummied his opposite number and went over the line to score out wide. Jones-Davies completed another commendable display in his fledgling career by slotting the difficult conversion to make the final score 24-27.

Gravesend will be disappointed at not winning this highly competitive match, failure to turn possession and territory into points was their downfall, as the adage goes “points make prizes”. Credit must go to the Cobham players for their self-belief and for persevering to the end in what must otherwise be seen as a below par performance.

It will be a fascinating rematch on 31st January 2009, which we look forward to.