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Match Reaction : OPRFC 36-21 Cobham

Match Reaction : OPRFC 36-21 Cobham

James Sarek12 Sep 2022 - 19:27
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A view from the touchline + reaction from Vinnie Berrington & Chris East

OPRFC's return to level 6 rugby continues to bear fruit with a 36-21 over Cobham, taking a maximum 10 points from 10 in the opening two fixtures of the season, one of only two teams to do so.

Speaking editorially, this was perhaps one of the best Twisters performances in the last year or so ; playing with symbiosis, flair and resolve in equal measure, it may prove to be an early yardstick of progress since 2021/22.

This is borne out by moving into a 22-0 lead within 20 minutes, Cobham unable to deal with the constant threat provided by the Old Priorians backs. Conor Dolan was first to cross the line after 4 minutes and it appears that he is replicating the form of London 1 North prior to the pandemic, where he is able to accelerate past defenders, use his size to move through the tackle and largely offload with accuracy. Not only that, he looked very good in defence in the midfield.

Other early scorers were Charlie Page and Chris East who both move on to two tries from two for the season, tied with Carlos Gomez-Rose, who got onto the scoresheet himself later in the game. Page and East have a tendency to be in the right place in the right time, perhaps less to do with luck and more to do with understanding of the team dynamics and context of the game, allowing them to move into positions of opportunity that thus far they have turned into scores.

Gomez-Rose has taken on a similar role ; having worked on speed, he appears able to beat the man almost at will, which bought territorial advantage and good field position for OPs. While both his tries have come from the back of mauls, they are deserved spoils for dogged endeavour throughout the 80 minutes in each fixture.

Jack Dever was the other try scorer for the afternoon's play for the Twisters, coming off the bench for his first points of the season and also providing one of the plays of the game, putting in a crunching tackle on his opposite number, much to the delight of the home support.

But in a match of individual brilliance, the high point of the game came from winger Alex Gribbon. Making his league debut for OPs, the 18 year old made a break that Cheslin Kolbe would be proud of, receiving the ball just outside his own 22 and then jinking his way through half a dozen defenders before being brought down just outside the opposition 22. A breathtaking piece of play, one would predict Gribbon is destined for great things.

If we are to level any criticism of the performance as a whole, we can point to another match with a high penalty count and being largely dominated in the scrums ; however, we can temper the first of these points slightly by putting it in the context of the game, where the referee remained even in their decision making and was as likely to penalise Cobham for their mistakes.

The second point ought be put in context too ; the scrum definitely improved in terms of its solidity after a reshuffle, with sub Matt Dever coming on at 8, which appeared to steady the ship a little, perhaps a matter of mass more than anything else, as well as Mishka Fibbens, another replacement, a generally immovable object at the best of times adding extra stability. It forced Cobham into looking for the wheel, and then tempering that when it became apparent it wouldn't lead to an advantage.

Speaking directly after the game, Vinnie Berrington was happy with how things went :

'We're moving towards our target slowly...Cobham were a good side and were really well coached. It was good for our hard work to pay off and gives the boys confidence.

Alex Gribbon worked really hard and it's been great to have him down at of the big parts of the club is having the St Benedict's contingent come through.

The penalty count was quite high again so perhaps it is worth us looking at our relationship with the referee. Other teams may well be able to punish us, like H.A.C did last season.

The visitors were by no means a pushover, as is evidenced by their tree tries. Strong and mostly mobile in the forwards, second row Tom Davison looked lively and good with ball in hand, as did Jake McQuade at 8, who got on the scoresheet, often making important carries past the game line. He also provided a moment of magic, utilising feet to control the ball with football skills befitting of Neymar.

Where Cobham lacked, perhaps, was in their creativity and speed in backs phases. Certainly receiving their fair share of possession and advancing deep on numerous occasions, opportunities were squandered through a mixture of slow ball, awkward positioning and some superb defending by Old Priorians, who were dogged to a man during a tremendously absorbing 15 minutes of play in the middle of the second half.

We also spoke to winger Chris East :

'We worked hard and I was happy to come away with a try - perhaps our execution could have been better (myself included), we just need to capitalise on our opportunities a bit better.

I'm always aiming for the top scorer, but there's going to be stiff competition from Carlos with two on the sheet already at hooker...

The reckoning may be that at this early stage in the season that Old Priorians will be among the reckoning for promotion, though it is way too early to tell. The same could well apply to Cobham, who had a number of players making their debut and given time to gel, could be looking at a push for that coveted top spot, with only one team going up from the division.

OPs face Belsize Park at Regent's Park next Saturday - 17th September - a 2pm kick off.

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