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Mike Abbott Post London Skolars (a)

July 10, 2023

Head coach Mike Abbott praised the ‘maturity’ shown by his Cornwall RLFC side after they defeated London Skolars 30-14 at the New River Stadium. 

In securing their first away win of the season, Cornwall also recorded an historic league double for the first time in the club’s history.

First half tries from Nathan Cullen, Tom Ashton and Ieuan Badham put Cornwall 16-6 up at the break with Leighton Ball replying for the visitors who had both Alex Deery and Lamont Bryant sent to the bin.

After the break, Ball scored again to set Cornish nerves jangling but David Weetman and Luke Collins both scored to lead Cornwall to a famous victory. Bryant spent another 10 minutes in the sinbin as London’s indiscipline came to the fore. It boiled over in the dying embers when Dan Bairstow gave both Adam Rusling and Errol Carter a facial. Carter took exception to Bairstow and a melee broke out which saw the Cornwall winger, Morgan Punchard and Jerome Yates sent to the bin. 

Skipper Liam Whitton is safe under the high ball – Paul Cowan

“I said before the game that I thought it was one we should win with the quality we have in our group and I am glad the lads produced,” Abbott told cornwallrlfc.co.uk. “When the game started to get away from us we dug in and we fought momentum back.

“I knew we could get the win today and that’s not me being arrogant, it’s me identifying that with the players we have, we ought to get the job done.

“Skolars are a good side that are just perhaps lacking a bit of confidence and momentum currently but we never let them get on top. It’s even more pleasing to do it without someone like Cam Brown who was missing with a sickness bug. We also lost Tommy Ashton in the first half through injury and Tommy has been massive for us this year. 

“Overall, we did things tough and hung in the game when we had to by showing a real maturity. Our back row shut things down out wide and Adam Rusling, for a young kid, guided us around the park.”

Kaine Dimech breaks through three tacklers – Paul Cowan

Abbott also reserved special praise for Cornwall’s raft of new signings as the Mem chief used the three week break his troops have endured to strengthen with both permanent and loan captures.

Both Nathan Newbound and Sean Croston made their Cornwall bows and excelled, while Morgan Punchard started in place of Cam Brown who missed the game through illness. Jaden Barraclough worked tirelessly in both attack and defence off the interchange bench along with Ewan Badham whilst Callum Abbott, the sixth and final new signing was named as 18th man. 

“I thought our loan signings were great for us,” Abbott added. “Contrary to what some people may think and then write, we don’t just take any player on loan, they have to be right for the club. Our general manager John Beach has worked tirelessly to bring in the right type of loan players and also Morgan Punchard, who is with us until the end of the season, I thought he was brilliant.

“Nathan Newbound and Sean Croston came in and for their first games, they were unbelievable and very much made us better as a team.”

Nathan Newbound impressed on his debut – Paul Cowan

The win puts Cornwall two points and a superior points difference away from the Skolars who prop up the rest. It also means the Choughs have drawn level with Midlands Hurricanes and intriguingly, the two sides meet at the Mem this coming Sunday.

But Abbott was disappointed with social media comments pre-game and he fired a stinging broadside towards those keyboard critics that labelled the clash against Skolars as a battle for the wooden spoon.

“Some of the comments I saw in the week building up to the game were downright disrespectful,” he remarked. “There are 17 blokes on each team, both London and ourselves, that go and put their bodies on the line and get bashed about for 80 minutes.

“This is a tough sport and we aren’t where we are in the league because we want to be and we give everything we can every single week. The game was contested between two really good competitive teams and we’ve got the two competition points, along with a bit of history also.”

The first ever league double for Cornwall was witnessed by a vocal and partisan visiting support who comfortably outnumbered the home fans in a crowd of 281 in North London on Saturday.

Adam Rusling and Tom Ashton stop a London attack – Paul Cowan

Abbott revealed that fans signing his name pre-game was something he had never experienced whilst he urged supporters to recreate that intimidating atmosphere at the Mem this coming Sunday. 

“We may have been away against London, but the noise from our supporters made it feel like a home game,” he enthused. 

If that noise can be replicated at home then it will push us on because we are a young side that needs confidence to perform.

“I have never heard the crowd chant my name before like they did at London and in some respects, it took my mind off the game a little bit. The fans were class and I think I have said this before, that when we play at Penryn the fans make it feel like a real intimidating rugby league ground.

“The lads love and respect the crowd and all of them have always been so good with the fans be it having their picture taken, signing autographs or just chatting to them about rugby league.”