Exmouth produce performance of real class at London Irish
17:00 26 November 2012
London Irish 13, Exmouth 13
With rugby cancelled all over the South West Exmouth made their longest away trip to South West London to face unbeaten league leaders London Irish.
Ali Hill returned to the squad for the injured Tom Elliott and Jack Westlake took a place on the bench.
The Wildgeese play on London Irish’s old ground in Sunbury and with top quality facilities it meant a good playing surface despite the constant rain and a good crowd with a large contingent of Cockles travelling support.
The game could not have started any worse for the Cockles with Wildgeese wing George Owen showing great pace and skill as tackled in the corner he managed to touchdown with quick ball straight from the kickoff, fortunately for Exmouth the conversion was wayward.
Awoken by this quick start the Cockles focus was clear to strike back straight away. With play into the home sides half several phases of possession caused the Wildgeese to stray offside and Andrew Powell slotted the three points.
Four minutes later he added a second the Cockles gaining the advantage in the tight, particularly at scrum time.
Both sides battered each others defence without reward, Wildgeese looking sharp in loose play yet struggling with the Cockles physical presence. James Harris stole ball after ball at the breakdown to frustrate the home side.
The Wildgeese are a quality outfit led by an impressive hard hitting number eight and captain Sam McKinney, he made great inroads for the hosts next try, the Cockles turned over from a free kick, which the Exmouth supporters felt should be more, saw the Wildgeese sweep up-field and score out wide a second unconverted try by wing Frazer Carlisle.
Getting the wrong side of the match official saw Exmouth lose a man to the sin bin and concede an Ed Keohane penalty as the half drew to a close. The interval providing a welcome rest bite from the intensity of the first half.
On came the floodlights for the second half and things certainly looked brighter for the Cockles, back to full strength they bossed the scrum with Mike Wilson taking several strikes against the head as the Cockles eight turned the screw.
Deep in the Wildgeese 22 Exmouth looked to muscle over, Wildgeese’ McKinney pulled down the maul and was off to the sin bin. From the penalty Exmouth went for the scrum and, after three times of collapsing the scrum as the Cockles were set to score, the referee awarded a well earned penalty try. Powell’s conversion levelled the score up at 13 all.
With 30 minutes to go the Cockles played their hearts out, the forwards have to take great credit, with the ball slippy and the raining continuing to fall, they held on to it at times for twenty or more phases of play.
The Wildgeese showed their class as lesser teams would have folded under the pressure, unable to win their own scrums the home side looked to run the ball and kick out of trouble.
Exmouth at times gained thirty or more meters as the ground their way up field looking for the chance or mistake that would either produce a try or give Powell the chance at a shot at goal.
Unsighted or perhaps in a forgiving mood several claims for a penalty were dismissed by the referee, and with time running out the Wildgeese held out the Cockles to share the spoils of an enthralling game of rugby.
The Cockles are next in action on December 8 at home to Maidenhead, the match ends the first round of fixtures which currently sees the Cockles in second place behind London Irish.
Exmouth have played a number of tricky away games so the second half of the season will provide a real boost as the Cockles look to consolidate their league position.