London Skolars vs Cornwall – Match Report
July 10, 2023
Cornwall RLFC secured a history-making league double with a comfortable and thoroughly deserved win over London Skolars.
After defeating the capital outfit 35-10 at the Memorial in March, Cornwall repeated the dose in North London with this victory clearly showing how the fledgling Betfred League 1 side, playing in just their second professional campaign, are progressing.
It means that the side have doubled their win tally from last year and for the first time ever, lowered the colours of the same club in both home and away matches during a single campaign.
The win was made even sweeter for Cornwall after a less than ideal preparation with both Decarlo Trerise and Cameron Brown missing out through a sickness bug. These absences prompted a team reshuffle with Cornishman George Mitchell playing on the wing – his first game for six weeks after a hamstring injury.
But MItchell was outstanding in both attack and defence, fully justifying his selection and on another day, with a little more luck, would have registered a first try in Cornwall colours.
Along with Mitchell, there were other notable performances from one to seventeen in a Cornwall shirt. Led brilliantly by skipper Liam Whitton, the visitors got their noses in front early in the piece and that set the tone for what followed.
Heavy rain in the hour before kick-off made conditions less than ideal and the wet 4G surface at the New River Stadium tested both teams in the early exchanges.
But Cornwall settled well and the first signs that London’s ill-discipline, that would hamper them throughout, came to the fore.
A testing Adam Rusling kick was fielded by Jacob Thomas and after a good chase from Nathan Cullen and Mitchell, London felt that merry whistle blower Matthew Lynn should have awarded a penalty to the home side. They took their protestations too far and were penalised for dissent on tackle one, in their own red-zone.
Cornwall smelt blood and they went for the kill as after loading up on the left edge, Rusling’s delayed pass was perfect for Cullen who crashed over from close range. Rusling, who was outstanding throughout, came up with his only blemish of a near faultless individual performance when the conversion hit the woodwork.
And it got even better for Cornwall after 14 minutes when a penalty for a high tackle on Tom Ashton put Cornwall in range again. The London right edge was again targeted by Cornwall and Ashton cut back inside to power over for his third try of the campaign.
Rusling, from an almost identical position to Cullen’s try, did manage to convert to stretch the lead to 10-0.
It got even worse for London just shy of the 20 minute mark when hooker Alex Deery knocked the ball out of Rusling’s hand and was sent to the sinbin for delaying the restart.
However, the 12-men were handed a way back into the game in fortunate circumstances when Errol Carter, playing against his former club, fumbled a high ball and Leighton Ball picked up the scraps to score.
Phil Lyon, returning to the Skolars’ line-up for the first time in 2023, kicked a wonderful touchline conversion to bring the hosts to within four points of Cornwall’s tally.
Cornwall recovered well at shipping points for the first time and Rusling’s chip kick was perfectly gathered by Mitchell who was hauled down just shy of the London line. On the last tackle, Rusling kicked through but the ball just evaded the fingertips of Jake Lloyd.
Rusling’s intelligent kicking game, which was a feature for Cornwall throughout, then contributed to a third away score after 34 minutes.
With London’s line flat, Rusling kicked low and hard in the direction of centre Jerome Yates and after the ball bounced off his chest, it was loose on the floor. Rusling, showing skills more akin to the round ball game kicked through and eventually Ieuan Badham, on at interchange with his first touch of the ball, dotted down. Rusling made no mistake with the extras.
As half time then approached, London did test the Cornwall line but Mike Abbott’s men stood firm and the home side’s frustrations boiled over after the interval siren when prop Lamont Bryant was shown a yellow card for a hand in the face.
A clearly frustrated home coach Joe Mbu kept his players out of the sheds during the break and instead, sat them down on the terraces while Cornwall did leave the stadium bowl, knowing they were just 40 minutes away from another piece of history.
But whatever Mbu said to his charges had the desired effect as with just three minutes of the second stanza elapsed, Ball bagged his second of the afternoon. He picked up the ball on the bounce and managed to squeeze in out wide. Lyon couldn’t add the extras but it was very much game on.
Owing to London’s second try, the next four-pointer was always going to be pivotal but thankfully for Cornwall, it went to the men in yellow. The visitors hammered away at the Skolars line and David Weetman appeared to have been held up but somehow he managed to ground the ball. That was Weetman’s fourth try in just six games since joining the Choughs in May and Rusling converted.
Cornwall made a mess of the restart but then London replied in kind when Bryant, who had an afternoon to forget, fumbled the ball close to the line and possession was back in the visitors’ grasp.
Good ground was made and Rusling’s kick wasn’t dealt with by Thomas but the ball went backwards. London throwing caution to the wind, were then bundled into touch and Cornwall had a scrum 20 metres out.
And they made London pay with another two points after Sam Wellings hit Liam Whitton off the ball and Rusling kicked an easy penalty.
Into the final 10 minutes and Bryant was sent to the bin again for another hand in the face. From the resulting penalty, Cornwall made the game safe when Nathan Newbound’s brilliant offload saw Luke Collins power his way over under the posts for a first try in Cornwall colours.
Rusling converted from bang in front to see Cornwall home and hosed but that wasn’t the end of the drama.
In the final 60 seconds, home centre Dan Bristow gave both Carter and Rusling an old-fashioned facial in consecutive tackles. Carter took exception to Bristow’s foul play and a huge melee broke out. The referee and his two merry flag wavers appeared to restore calm before Yates completely lost the plot and began pushing Lloyd.
His brain explosion cost him a yellow card along with Carter and Morgan Punchard although perhaps given the time on the clock, a talking to both captains would have been sufficient from Mr Lynn, who refereed the game wonderfully well.
The penalty went to London and the 12 men against Cornwall’s 11 grabbed a consolation when Derry caught Lyon’s kick to score. Derry took the conversion quickly and missed before the siren sounded sparking jubilant scenes both on the field and in the stands too as Cornwall had made history once again.
London Skolars: Thomas, Ball, Bristow, Yates, Kudangirana, Ryan, Lyon, Bryant, Derry, Lloyd-Jones, Wellings, Bejanidze, O’Callaghan. Interchange: (all used) Porter, Ross, Peut, Bardsley.
Tries: Ball (25,43), Deery (80)
Goals: Ryan 1/2
Sinbin: Deery (20) – delaying restart, Bryant (40,67) – hand in face, Yates (79) – running in
Cornwall: Whitton, Carter, Croston, Ashton, Mitchell, Punchard, Rusling, Boots, Collins, Newbound, Cullen, Weetman, Lloyd. Interchange: (all used) I Badham, E Badham, Barraclough, Dmiech.
Tries: Cullen (5), Ashton (14), I Badham (34), Weetman (50), Collins (68)
Goals: Rusling 5/6
Sinbin: Carter (79) – running in, Punchard (79) running in
Referee: Matthew Lynn