5:30pm Sunday 2nd March 2014
By Mike Cubitt
Having been entertained at Cobham's Ex-Players' superb pre-match lunch, we left left to wonder the outcome of the fixture until after the first 40.
Gravesend maintained their position at the head of London 1 South, with a super eight try performance at the Surrey club's well appointed Memorial Ground, off Fairmile Lane Cobham.
The weather had been kind for this first match back to the 15.00 kick off, and the sun decided to bless the players and spectators throughout the afternoon.
Under the strong guidance of referee Mr Andrew Gaynor, the teams looked evenly matched during the early exchanges, although Gsss did creep ahead on the penalty count, which saw an early sin bin for Adam Aigbokhae for deliberately killing the ball.
Cobham's fly-half, Tom Farrelly, had already one success from two attempts before the man reduction, but it was the fourteen man Gravesend that forced the next score when Scott Curley was one of a three man overlap, to take the scoring pass.
Scrum –half and league top kicker Miki Zanirato added the extras from the tee to take the scores to 3-7 after just fifteen minutes of play.
While Gss were still a man short, Cobham’s pack put together a strong catch and drive move which caught their visitors on the back foot. With Gsss unable to stop the surge forward it was Ed Knights that got the ball down for a try.
Farrelly’s kick come back from the upright but “Cobs” were 8-7 in front.
Little quarter was shown by either team as they fought for possession and for that elusive break through but gaps in the defences were few and far between. Those that did make a break were quickly cut down before crossing the gain line.
The first penalty given away by the home side was on thirty-three minutes and Zanirato made the most of the points to edge Gsss back in front 8-10.
Another missed kick by the home side lost them the chance to go back in front, before Gary Gray finished off yet another overlap move to touch down.
With the conversion going wide across the face of goal, the scores stood at 8-15 at the interval.
Within three minutes of the restart, both XVs had increased their scores from a three point penalty from Zanirato and Farrelly, but what was to come next was a complete change from the first forty minutes.
With Gravesend taking a more assertive approach to their possession retention, and Cobham having very little ball to play with, there followed a series of tries with one being scored every five minutes until the whistle brought an end to the scoring.
It wasn’t that Cobham weren’t able to compete, because there were numerous occasions that had just a slight defensive error from Gravesend occurred, they would have been through.
Both fifteens were made to defend strongly, but it was the ability to make room for that extra pair of hands outside that led the way to the scoreboard.
Scott Curley a late replacement for the growing list of absentees that came close after breaks by Gray, Meddings and Dorton, joining from full-back, before Ziggy was denied a touch-down.
This was short lived as from the resulting five metre scrummage, the forward drive took the ball over the line for the number eight to score.
Big performances from the line-out jumpers along with the front five driving from the second phase and the ever present workaholics of Aigbohkae, Bird and Stevens ensured a continuous flow of possession.
The backing up at the breakdown led to Adam Aigbohkae scoring the next. There followed the looping round of Bressons to make that extra man and the elusive pace of Temi Okenla running in from forty or fifty metres.
There was a confidence during this second forty minutes that appeared to be missing earlier, but then the back line had to adjust to the changes due to injuries and unavailability. Once the players clicked into place, then they were devastating in their clinical approach to winning this game.
Another try for Ziggy after he had burst through only to be tackled a metre short, but his strength and reach saw the ball placed over the goal line.
Temi Okenla scored a deserved second try and this along with his other super performances this season should ensure his place in the Nigerian National squad.
So many accolades could be made for the performances of individuals during this fixture but it must be better to pay the whole team massive congratulations for a jb well done.
Ross Comfort who had come on in the back row also got his name on the score sheet, and Miki Zanirato added four more conversions to his overall tally.
Although beaten, Cobham didn’t stop playing for one second, and when the opportunity came with just a minute on the clock to run down, the home number eight, Josh Brown, for a well deserved consolation try, bringing the final score to 16-56.
Next week Gravesend play host to their sponsors for lunch, and to Beckenham RFC for the afternoon entertainment.
Team: Dorton, Okenla, Gray, Meddings C, Curley, Bressons, Zanirato, Cuttings, Klus, Forsyth, Brooks-Smith, Necular, Bird, Aigbokhae, Stevens Z, reps; Stevens, Comfort, Haywood.
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