London Scottish this coming Saturday wrap up their home league programme of the season with a tasty encounter against the Cornish outfit Launceston. The Cornish side visit the RAA knowing that their relegation fate is sealed, however they will be determined to put up a strong showing and will present a completely different challenge for Scottish, as the club homes in on the final push for promotion.
The Launceston club or to use their alternative name Cornish All Blacks have been playing rugby since 1948, when the club was formed by a number of local personalities, including the headmaster of the local Launceston College. The club have had a number of sites in the town, before settling at their current location Poulson Bridge in 1969. In 2000 the club achieved promotion to National League Three South and remarkably came runners up in their first season of National League rugby, but lost out in the promotion playoff match against the Northern side Sedgley Tigers. The following season they achieved the same position, however promotion was achieved at the second time of asking. Unfortunately the club was relegated after their first season at level three rugby, but the club bounced back and were eventually promoted to the second tier of rugby at the end of the 2006/7 season. For a town of 7000 inhabitants it was a truly remarkable achievement to be playing amongst the top 28 teams in the English rugby pyramid system. The club was eventually relegated from level two at the end of 2008/9 season.
In the summer of 2010 the club went into administration and were docked 20 league points by the RFU prior to the start of this season. This led to the club losing a number of key players and coaching staff, which made the challenges they had to overcome doubly hard before the season had even started. A new coaching regime took over and the club set about re-structuring and achieving stability. Unfortunately the minus 20 points was a mountain too high for the club to overcome and their relegation to National League 2 South was confirmed last weekend with a 31 – 40 home loss to Blackheath. The new Director of Rugby Simon Owens has been forced to play a side who's composition is mainly now made up of local talent, due to the financial constraints placed on the club, however the players have raised their game considerably throughout the season. If the club did not have the points deduction imposed on them, then their league position would be an entirely different proposition.
Key players for Launceston are their leading try scorer and centre Ryan Western, who is currently on 19 tries and bagged his second hat trick of the season in the defeat last weekend against Blackheath. Other try scorers to watch out for are winger Richard Bright on 11 tries and scrum half Lewis Webb on 10 tries. The leading point’s scorer for the club is Ryan Western, who has added 17 conversions and 3 penalties to his tries to give him an overall total of 138 points. Assistant Coach and experienced player Mal Roberts has also chipped in with104 points this season. Other players to look out for are Kiwi centre Pele Nonu, who is the brother of All Black Ma'a Nonu and brings that steely edged Southern Hemisphere play to the side. Also second row Josh Lord and backrow forward Tom Rawlings are stand out players for the side. Launceston have recorded a number of notable close shaves in matches this season, which just highlights the close dividing line between success and failure in this league. They have recorded narrow defeats against Barking 25 – 29 this month, together with an earlier defeat in the season against Cambridge 20 – 21.
So the final home league match of the season is soon upon us and Scottish go into this match on the back of 24 consecutive victories and will be absolutely determined to continue with the run. The team are gearing themselves up for an exciting climax to the season and are playing to a very high standard and tempo. Launceston will be no doubt raise their game, but Scottish have the quality to finish their home league programme in style. Finally, a big thank you to all who have supported the team at home games this season. This season has been a bit like a roller coaster and as the club enters the final furlong, your support is greatly appreciated. Let's hear one last great Scottish roar from the sidelines and make sure the season at home ends with success. See you all there.