Sevenoaks Rugby 16 London Cornish RFC 6
Sevenoaks Rugby Club closed out the 2018 part of its 2018/19 campaign with a hard-fought 16-6 win against London Cornish on Saturday, consolidating second place in London 1 South.
In truth either team could have won in horrendous conditions at the Paddock. As they trudged off, it was impossible to tell the two mud-soaked teams apart. The familiar outline of players was all there was to go on though Oaks will have felt two foot taller for securing the win and showing unseasonably mean spirit in relation to gifting points; Sevenoaks has conceded just 212 points in the League this season, fewer than any other club.
The Cornish line up featured several familiar faces; former Oaks Dan Phoenix and Jamie Owen in the backs and former Wasps and Samoa international Dan Leo at eight. Big changes in the Sevenoaks back line included starts for several fresh-faced Oaks Academy graduates. As proceedings got underway against one of only two sides to beat Sevenoaks this season (the other being Medway) the task of maintaining an unsullied home record was no small ask.
Sevenoaks, however, found their footing first and as both teams got to grips with the name of the game in foul weather, stay close to the breakdown and keep the ball up and mauling forward, a period of early pressure resulted in an Oaks penalty from 30 metres out. The temperamental and gusting east wind into the face of young Edd Ansell meant he had to hold his nerve to rake the ball through the uprights. Unfortunately for Oaks, London Cornish’s reply was immediate and they drew parity through a penalty of their own.
Cornish made excellent use of the wind blowing from one corner of the pitch to the other to peg Oaks back, and it was only excellent defending and relentlessly getting off the floor and back in position that kept the visitors at bay. The sages on the touchline measured the wind as a 10 point advantage so when Oaks rumbled the ball upfield for a try just before half-time, the 8-3 margin was a welcome glow to take into the respite of the sheds at the break.
Credit and respect must go to the teams and officials for returning to the fray for the second half and some of the worst weather experienced at the Paddock this season. At stages every pause in play saw forwards and backs alike jumping up and down and trotting around to keep a semblance of warmth in circulation to combat mud-caked kit. With the prevalence of artificial surfaces, what a shame it would be if this most traditional rugby sight of teams slugging it out versus the elements underfoot and around them as much as battling each other were to disappear.
Sevenoaks' master class in tight phase play for much of the second half yielded a further try from a patiently executed sequence of 'pick and go' rugby to edge closer to, and then over the Cornish line. A further penalty apiece made the score 16-6 going into the final quarter when Cornish earned their gold stripes. Trelawny would have been proud of a rugged resistance and continued press that took advantage of Oaks' failure to clear their lines.
The score Cornish richly deserved eluded them, and as the ball was cleared to touch to mark the end of play the Paddock faithful was never more appreciative of a final whistle and the chance to sample the fayre on offer in the Clubhouse – and at the same time to voice how hugely appreciative they were of the effort from everyone involved in serving up a compelling 80 minutes of entertainment in the most challenging conditions. News sweeping in of wins for the Oaks 2s, 3s and Gents to make it four from four gave extra verve to the Christmas Carols, with thanks as every to compere Batesy and Hils and the Saxophone Choir.
The Club now looks forward to a decent break to rest wearied limbs, the 1st XV returning to action on 5 January 2019 with an away trip to Chobham. Sevenoaks Rugby Club would like to take this opportunity to wish players, coaches, managers, officials, volunteers, sponsors, supporters and all involved with the Club and our rugby community a Very Merry Christmas and all the very best for 2019.