Sevenoaks 37 London Cornish 31
Last Saturday saw Oaks welcome London Cornish to Knole Paddock for their eagerly anticipated promotion play off fixture, the prize at stake, London 1 rugby next season. Both sides have had tremendous seasons but their year would be defined for all 38 players, coaches, managers, physios and fans by 80 minutes of almost unbearable tension that would end in joy for the victor and despair for the vanquished.
In the opening stanza, Oaks embraced the pressure of the day, played high tempo expansive rugby and opened up a substantial early lead that had the home faithful believing that it was not a question of who would win but by how many. Outside half Winter, back for the first time in a month and still only half fit (If he was a horse they would have shot him) opened up holes almost at will with his canny distribution skills. Scores from Coleman, Anderson and a brace for Academy starlet Adams, who turned from a sapling to a fully fledged Oak before everybody’s disbelieving eyes. Due to Winters uncooperative knee, Adams also had to take over the kicking duties. The fact that he kicked five from seven on the day proved this Oak has got some sizeable Acorns too. As the whistle blew for half time Oaks lead had stretched out to an impressive 29-9. Job done………..or was it?
Over the sucking of the proverbial half time orange, London Cornish, who had only three penalties and a dysfunctional lineout to show for their efforts, decided to put their underpants on outside their shorts and come out in the second half and play like Supermen. Early pressure in the Oaks twenty two led to a string of penalties and the inevitable yellow card and ten minutes on the naughty step for centre Vaihu. In the next twelve or so minutes Cornish ran in three tries, the last of which was a fine solo effort.
Oaks brains were now well and truly scrambled, sphincters tightened at an alarming rate in the crowd, the stroll in the park had turned into the rugby equivalent of climbing Everest, in flip flops whilst carrying a fridge. Game very much on. Oaks emptied their bench of a tenacious pair of young Simmons, a Dodd and a May. Panic not quite over but the patient was definitely coming round.
Oaks regained the initiative through the rather large and capable hands of Anderson who was in all probability the best in show on the day. His score in the corner edged Oaks out to a 34-28 lead. The defining moment of the day came shortly after as winger Adams, who wouldn’t cut an imposing figure in the U10’s, strode forward and notched a penalty to take the lead to over one score. There was a large and universal exhaling of breath as the ball sailed over the black dot.
Much to your correspondent’s consternation and totally unlike the script I had in mind, Cornish came back YET AGAIN. Awarded a penalty in the final minute, just inside their own half, the Cornish skipper eschewed the kick to touch and summoned his kicker to go for the posts. With his size 10’s loaded with Semtex, he boomed the ball into orbit and over the uprights. 37-31.
With time just enough for the restart, a small town in West Kent collectively held its breath as the final few phases played out. The final knock on brought a final whilst and delirium to all those of a blue and gold persuasion. A great game, played by two excellent teams in exactly the right spirit.
In the any game there can only be one winner, which is why we keep score and today Captain Robinson, who had the calmest head in the house and his men held sway with a deserved win. London Cornish will undoubtedly dust themselves off, keep the Y Fronts outside the shorts and come hard again next year. Good luck to them.