Cantabs kicked off into a stiff off shore breeze in the club's first ever fixture against newly promoted and Yarmouth-based Broadlands. Cantabs were fielding a team devoid of Searles for the first time in many seasons and James Thomas was back in at centre in lieu of James McLaughran. Isaia Barbieri, our Italian front row, was making his 1st XV start. It was also good to see Pascal Relut supporting the team; Pascal was on a pilgrimage back to Blighty (but was unfortunately with damaged shoulder and therefore unable to play an active role, other than with water bottles)
After 2 minutes scrum half, Dean James chip-kicked over the Broadlands defence, and followed up his kick to force their winger into touch 15m out. From the resultant lineout, catch and drive, Cyril Journoux dived over the line unopposed; 5 - 0 Cantabs. At this point I need to emphasise that it was windy, and kicking was not easy, and I shall not mention conversion attempts hereafter, unless successful!
Some strong scrummaging and driving brought the pack back to the Broadlands 5m line, where Cantabs camped for a while doing the damnest to avoid scoring. Two drives being held up over the line somehow, before the Broadlands full back managed to kick his team to relative comfort. This proceeded to be the pattern for all of the first half and much of the second. However after 11 minutes following another huge Broadlands clearance, with the wind, centre Paul Graddage gathered the ball and ran diagonally from within our half almost to the Broadlands line, where he passed inside to Ali McCormick for an easy score in the corner; 10 - 0 to Cantabs.
After 18 minutes, Warren Cowan was punched by the Broadlands hooker, who took a well earned ten minute rest. Warren's aggressive style did not seem to suit the Broadlands pack, and particularly their number 5, who then seemed to go on a personal crusade to punch most of our pack. (We missed the penalty - sorry shouldn't have mentioned that Ali).
Broadlands were losing many scrums, even before the loss of their hooker, and Richard Ford was winning virtually every line out, even on their throw. I did start to wonder if he had remembered their calls from his time at Broadlands six seasons previously!
After 24 minutes, following a scrum 5m out, the ball was moved along the line by our backs for left winger Tom Wakerly to touch down in the corner. 15-0. Broadlands then opened their account with a very well struck penalty, from the half way line; 15 - 3.
Final play of the half saw James Thomas clean up at the breakdown 35m out, and the subsequent backs move to the right allowed Francois Eve to run in strongly; 20 - 3 at half time, and already a bonus point earned.
Broadlands kick-off went straight into touch, we won our scrum on the centre spot, Dean picked up at the base of the scrum, ran at the defence in the usual Dean manner, flicked a pass inside to Ali in support, who crossed the line; 25 - 3.
After 50 minutes, constant pressure from the pack and some great hands from our backs saw Ali join the line again, running a great line into the left hand corner; 30 - 3. Richard Ford took a break from the action at this point as a precautionary step following a calf injury picked up in training. Ian Watkins replaced him, thus making his 1st XV debut.
Three minutes later Paul got his reward for a lot a powerful runs, when he intercepted a wayward Broadlands pass on the halfway line, and ran unopposed under the posts. Euan Wilder kicked the conversion; 37 - 3.
After 65 minutes John Perks was replaced in the front row by Michael Denman. The changes had little effect to the Cantabs dominance in the scrum, and so after 70 minutes, following a five yard scrum, Dean picked up and dived USA style over the cover defence; 42 - 3.
At about this point, Johnnie Heaver, as only Johnnie can, punched their number 5, spear tackled their hooker, saw yellow, and rested for the remainder of the game. And so it was with Cantabs down to 14, two of whom were being treated for injuries, Broadlands at last broke through our defence for a score, which was converted; 42 - 10 to Cantabs and the final score of the match.
I am not sure who was awarded man of the match; I left early for the long trek home. The whole team contributed very well, with our front five knocking holes in the Broadlands pack all afternoon. If I had to give it to anyone it would probably have been Isaia who made ground every time he was given the ball and contributed well in an invincible scrum.
Other results on Saturday have left Cantabs clear at the top of Eastern Counties 1, and with a squad that is growing in quality and quantity with every training session. Well done lads and well done the coaching staff!