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Surrey Cup

New caps provide strong impetus...

Cobham advance to quarter finals in the Surrey Cup

Old Alleynians 5 Cobham 20

Taking advantage of a break from league rugby, Cobham fielded a much-changed side for the Surrey Cup match against Old Alleynians. Even more changes than planned were forced by the late arrivals in Dulwich by hooker Heinrich du Plessis and lock Ben Pickett  - due to Street demonstrations in Camberwell (allegedly).  Already the organisational skills of absent Team Manager Tommy Schofield – who would have undoubtedly been able to supply alternative routes - were being missed.  The ‘rested’ Mark Bennett and Henry Mounsey stepped in at hooker and lock respectively.

The game started promisingly for Cobham with an immediate big hit by back-row forward Alex Cook on the OA’s fly half, followed by a period of territorial pressure by the away side, with Bennett prominent; indeed the game was 10 minutes old before Old Alleynians were able to get into the Cobham half. Although the pressure was intense, little real threat emerged from it as too many times the inability to retain the ball after a tackle or simple handling errors thwarted the Cobham ambition.

After fifteen minutes, however, the inevitable break occurred and No. 7 Duncan Campbell touched down in the corner following a pass to him by Chris Moreton. Rob Smedley missed the conversion attempt.

The same territorial advantage was to apply for the rest of the half and it was almost the half-hour mark before Old Alleynians were able to cross for the first time into the Cobham 22, only to miss a kickable penalty. The Old Alleynian eight were beginning to be driven back at the set piece but, despite this ominous sign, no real opportunities for Cobham emerged. This was due largely to solid OA defence, but also to frustrating simple errors; four times for example progress was halted as a result of Cobham three-quarters kicking the ball directly into touch.

An ankle injury to Davison on 32 minutes brought about his replacement by Pickett, who was immediately prominent in a strong twenty yard run. This run though, like many similar to it by the increasingly dominant Cobham back-row, ended in a penalty award by referee Mr. Farmer in favour of Old Alleynians.

Cobham pressure paid off on the stroke of half time when, after a series of rucks, the ball was worked wide, though a little untidily, to Charlie Irons - who had time to pick it up and score in the corner. Half Time: Old Alleynians 0 Cobham 10.  

Eight minutes into the second half Heinrich du Plessis replaced Mark Bennett.  It seemed like the veteran hooker Bennett was suddenly tired - having anticipated a day on the bench with a gallon of Guiness on Friday evening apparently. The penalty count against Cobham continued to mount, and frustration too: Ben Creed receiving a yellow card from Mr. Farmer for a retaliatory act. 

The pattern of Cobham dominance continued, as did the inability of the Cobham XV to capitalise on this pressure. Several times in promising situations a Cobham ball carrier took the ball into a tackle situation, only to be turned over by determined OA defence.

After 20 minutes of the half Cobham scored again. This time the ball was worked wide to Irons who, despite juggling the final pass from Mounsey at least three times, touched down in the left corner. Smedley missed the difficult kick.

Josh Brown, making his first team debut, replaced Creed, and immediately made a mark with a solid tackle and a strong carry. Alex Joseph replaced Richard Nunn at tight head. On 25 minutes good work by Flower and mobile lock Mounsey put Smedley in for another Cobham Try.  Old Alleynians 0 Cobham 20.

The last 15 minutes proved to be the best period of the match for the Old Alleynians team who, despite the constant pressure, had continued to battle resolutely. A long period of possession, with the ball moving through many pairs of hands and a series of rucks, resulted in a well-deserved score by centre Kofi Barnes.  Throughout this period the penalty count against Cobham continued to mount, somewhat to the consternation of Cobham replacement hooker Du Plessis who, in some frustration, asked Mr. Farmer whether the laws applying to the ruck were different in Dulwich from those in Durban. Mr. Farmer quietly suggested that Mr. Du Plessis would be best advised to get on with the game.

All in all, a good game played in a good spirit but, from Cobham's viewpoint containing too many unforced errors.  Old Alleynians played with determination and there was no real sense on the day of the two-league difference which separates the two sides.

In the quarter final of the Surrey Cup on 21st March Cobham will face London 2 rivals Dorking.

Cobham Team: Flower; Tompkins, Moreton, Botten, Irons; Smedley, Taylor; Nunn (Joseph 60), Bennett, (du Plessis 48)  Raikes, Davison (Pickett  32), Mounsey, Creed (Brown 60) , Campbell, Cook.

Tries: Duncan Campbell (1), Charlie Irons (2), Rob Smedley (1).