It was 6th v 7th in London 1 South, as Sevenoaks 1st XV entertained Cobham at the Paddock. Both teams had met last season in the Intermediate Cup where Oaks came out on top in a tight encounter. Oaks were coming back from a rest week which had enabled a few tired bodies to recover in time for a fixture that was played in front of a crowd boosted by over 80 attendees for the Past Players lunch, with special mention to Mike Mauduit who has been a member of the Club since 1949.
The Oaks were led out by Captain Stuart Coleman, who was making his 100th appearance for the 1st XV. Conditions were dry as the referee blew his whistle, with Oaks playing towards Lady Boswell School in the first half.
As the home team coaching staff had expected, Cobham were athletic, skillful and well drilled, with a particular keenness to move the ball to the wide areas, particularly following turnovers of possession. Indeed it was the Cobham number 7 who proved to be a menace at the breakdown and broke up any rhythm that the home team were trying to achieve. Oaks struggled to gain any foothold in the game for the first twenty minutes, with the visitors striking first as hooker Davis bumped off would-be tacklers before dotting down under the sticks. The score was converted by Wier.
Five minutes later, with no.8 Simon Humble now roaming with the ball in hand, and fly-half Dan Phoenix managing proceedings well from behind the scrum, Oaks worked the ball to the left wing where Jonny Short stepped his man before offloading to Simon Tree. Jamie Owen, who had an excellent afternoon, timed his run beautifully, receiving the scoring pass from Tree before diving over in the left corner. Phoenix, who was to have an near flawless day with the boot, added the extras.
Despite Oaks slowly managing to claw their way back on the possession stakes, it was Cobham who would strike next. It was clear to see why the away side wanted to move the ball at the earliest opportunity, as their right sided winger showed a clean pair of heels, finishing well in the corner to take them 12-7 in front. This was then followed by three more points for Cobham, as Oaks centre Shadyn Osgood was sent to the sin bin for a misdemeanor. Wier converting from out on the left.
If Oaks needed sparking into life, then the replacement of John Henley for the injured Will De-Smith certainly gave them the impetus they required. Following on from the kick-off, Henley raced forward, timing his tackle to perfection and earning Oaks a turnover and penalty. The conversion from Phoenix was good and Oaks went in 12-10 down at the break.
During half time, the weather started to deteriorate, and as both teams emerged from the sheds for the second stanza, a considerable amount of precipitation was now in the air.
In years gone by, the sight of droplets of rain would send the majority of the Sevenoaks RFC's heart to sink. However, Adam Bowman's outfit seemed to gain energy from the conditions and with a kicking game that pinned Cobham back into their half, it was the evergreen Simon Tree who cut a beautiful line to crash in under the posts after the Oaks had repeatedly battered Cobham's line. Phoenix converted and Oaks had taken the lead for the first time in the match. 17-12 to Oaks.
Home scrum-half Sebastin Goodhew was having a good game with the boot, and continued to pump kicks into the opposition territory. This coupled with a forceful kick chase allowed Oaks to pin Cobham in their half as the rain continued to fall.
The next score was once again to go the way of the home side. After another kick to the corner after the men from Fairmile Lane were penalised for an infringement, Oaks recycled the ball, with Osgood taking a hard line. The young centre was stopped abruptly, but he had sucked in defenders. After two more phases, Jonny Short emerged from a plethora of bodies to touch down for his eighth score of the season. Phoenix once again converting. 24-12.
Cobham refused to lie down and once again came back at Oaks, scoring in the right hand side with a well worked try. The crowd could sense that the next score would prove vital in the outcome of the game.
And so, with impeccable timing, it was Oaks who were to secure the win with the next two scores. After more good hands and recycling of possession, Simon Tree worked his way to the right wing to receive a well timed pass from prop Simmons, securing the try bonus point. Phoenix missed the conversion by hitting the post, his only blemish from the tee, but made amends a few minutes later with a penalty to put the home side two scores ahead.
The last word was to go to Cobham, as with time up, they continually battered Oaks' line. After numerous phases, the damn finally broke, with the away side winger dotting over. This gave Cobham the try bonus and also the losing bonus point - two points thoroughly deserved for a team of quality who were determined to play rugby.
After the match, Oaks Head Coach Adam Bowman was very pleased with his sides maturity in difficult conditions saying 'Our second half performance and reaction to the deteriorating conditions was spot on. We played the conditions really well against a very useful outfit.'
'We struggled to get into the game from the kick off, but do accept that in this league, it is going to be tough to dominate the game from minutes one to eighty. We were determined to get the win for Stu (Coleman) though and I'm delighted that he was able to enjoy his 100th 1st XV cap one the winning side.'
'Lastly, a huge thanks again to all of the supporters this afternoon. The conditions were certainly testing in the second half, but to have over 80 for a pre-match lunch is brilliant. We are hugely appreciative of all the support and it makes a big difference during the tight games.'
1. A. Rolfe
2. S. Sedgewick
3. T. Simmons
4. S. Coleman (c)
5. T. Naismith
6. S. Derrick
7. W. De Smith
8. S. Humble
9. S. Goodhew
10. D. Phoenix
11. J. Short
12. S. Tree
13. S. Osgood
14. J. Owen
15. D. Saunders
16. J. Walker
17. J. Henley
18. O. Shirtcliff