Barking 0, Cornish All Blacks 61
Barking 0, Cornish All Blacks 61
CORNISH All Blacks moved up to the heady heights of sixth place in the National Two South table by routing bottom side Barking at a very wet and muddy Goresbrook.
After making a sticky start to the season, winning only one of their first six league games, they are now on a four-match winning streak, and have taken the victory spoils in five or their last six outings.
The visit to Barking in the east end of London had classic banana skin potential.
The hosts had not won a game all season, were conceding an average of more than 53 points a match, and were coming into the contest off the back of a 78-0 thrashing at Taunton Titans.
But their players were keen to impress a new coaching team recently installed, under director of rugby Nick Warren, and with a strong wind and incessant rain likely to prove a great leveller, the All Blacks needed to turn in a professional job.
The club met the expense of an overnight stop at nearby Basildon to aid preparations, and despite not arriving at their hotel until 1am the previous night, the players duly delivered on the pitch, running in nine tries and converting eight of them in a fine all-round display.
Barking did not help their cause by having tight-head prop Sam John sent off after 34 minutes for an alleged butt, but they deserve enormous credit for the way they kept going in the second half.
Despite already trailing 42-0, they pounded away at the All Blacks' try line until the bitter end, but a mixture of errors in the slippery conditions and some heroic defending by the visitors kept them out. Barking have now conceded 139 points and scored none since their new coaching team was installed, but if they show the fight they displayed last Saturday during the rest of the season, there is still hope that a team which only 18 months ago got within seconds of being promoted to the Championship can avoid the ignominy of a second successive relegation.
The All Blacks got the match off to just the start they wanted, with a try after only four minutes.
A drive off a line-out was illegally stopped by Barking, and referee Keith Lewis had no hesitation in marching under the uprights to award a penalty try, and full back Kieron Lewitt slotted the simple conversion.
A period of Barking pressure then came to nothing, before the All Blacks bagged three tries in a ten-minute spell to have the bonus point all sewn up by the 25-minute mark.
Blindside flanker Mike Rawlings collected the first after a close-range line-out – a tremendous break out of defence by Lewitt and centre Lewis Paterson led to a five-metre scrum, from which No.8 Josh Lord crashed over for the second; and then the impressive Paterson raced in from 45 metres, and with the immaculate boot of Lewitt converting all three, the All Blacks led 28-0.
Barking then shoot themselves in the foot by losing flanker Michael Anderson to a yellow card, and in the aftermath of Lord dotting down his second pushover try, converted by Lewitt, John was dismissed for an offence spotted by a touch judge.
A 35-0 half-time lead was extended five minutes after the break, when Lord appeared set to collect his hat-trick at the back of a driving maul until Barking infringed and gave away another penalty try, with Lewitt making it six out of six with his boot.
Barking then enjoyed their best spell of the match, keeping the All Blacks out for the next 26 minutes and showing great attacking purpose themselves, until a late flourish saw tries by lock BJ Chapman with a 25-metre break; teenage centre Sam Chapman after he latched onto a delightful grubber kick through; and scrum half Richard Friend following another pushover scrum, with fly half Nielson Webber converting two.
In the last quarter of the match, the All Blacks gave young forwards Duncan Hales and Fred Bulut league debuts off the replacements' bench.