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Cobham's foot off the gas; gutsy performance by the visitors

Saturday saw the visit of Maidstone to Fairmile Lane, a fixture that pitted relative top against bottom of the London 2 South League. Following a series of top of the table contests and a long and physically demanding outing to Dover, there was the potential for complacency to creep into Cobham’s preparation for this game considering Maidstone’s much maligned record on paper.  This proved to be the case, despite the best efforts of the coaching staff, as Maidstone proved a side not to be underestimated and quite clearly growing in stature.

Cobham took the opportunity of starting Neil Smitherman at number 8 for his first full cap. This belated start came following a frustrating but accelerated return from an injury courtesy of the excellent new Head Physiotherapist and conditioning coach David Silver MCSP. Rob Smedley also received his first start at fly half, or first five eight as he would call it, replacing the fragile Dan Taylor. Richard Nunn demoted Andy Alexander to the bench as did Matt Hahn with Head Coach Billy Davison, still recovering from his Skiing jolly. This game also saw the return of Mark Bennett at hooker to give first choice Heinrich ‘Dupie’ Du Plessis a well earned rest.

Despite the reshaped side, Cobham started brightly, to the surprise of the coaching staff.  This may have been due to relative firmness of the Fairmile ground in contrast to the ‘Chocolate Mousse’ surface provided by Dover the previous week. Strong work around the breakdown and off 10 provided consistent gain-line crossing carries with fast and open play by both sides in the opening exchanges. The deadlock was broken within 10 minutes when Piers Gregory crossed on the right wing following a set piece move 30m out, converted by Tim Green.  In earlier rounds of the season this may have signalled the start of a points difference boosting win, something that other high flying teams have inflicted on Maidstone.  This proved not to be the case as this greatly improved team responded with tenacious first line and scrambling defence, and made the most of Cobham’s lack of patience and composure.

Maidstone capitalised on one of few forays into the Cobham 22 on 20 minutes, with an unconverted try following a right sided break. The game then became rather scrappy with Maidstone limiting the home side to 2 penalties from the boot of Green giving Cobham a 13-5 lead at the break.  After stern words at half time from captain and coach Davison, Cobham regrouped and began to build phases and territory as Maidstone physicality waned . This lead to a try from Rob Smedley  following sustained pressure with the conversion slotted by the otherwise quiet Green.  Again, Cobham expected Maidstone’s flood gates to open however untidy work at the breakdown and poor game control, coupled with strong spirit, kept the game tight.

Maidstone crossed for the second time following Cobham indiscipline with the right winger scoring in the corner. Bringing the score to 18-10. This signalled a Cobham wake-up who slowly took control of the game and converted through try’s from Ben Pickett and Jack Davison finished off the mini Maidstone revival within the final 20 minutes.

 At the final whistle Cobham came home winners 30-10 which belies the effort and commitment brought by the gutsy visitors. This win leaves Cobham in the thick of what looks to be an intriguing title contest which will undoubtedly go right to the wire.           

 Cobham return to league action in two weeks with a trip to mid table Tunbridge wells looking for 2 points to keep them in the hunt for the league title.