Cantabs resumed their Eastern Counties league campaign against the much improved Harwich side that started the match in third position, having had six straight victories. Chris Walliker was back at lock, after injury, and Jonnie Heaver moved to No 8, with captain Richard Ford on the bench. The only change in the backs saw Sami back at inside centre.
The conditions were still and dry, but the pitch was greasy after a week of rain. Harwich kicked off but Cantabs were soon on the attack with a flowing move that found Warren clear on the right. He made 40 metres before beating the Harwich fullback on the outside to touch down. Ali converted, and it was 7 to 0 after only two minutes.
Harwich then pressed hard for ten minutes, looking pretty lively and Cantabs were on the defence. First Harwich went close but lost a 5 metre scrum and Adrian kicked clear. Then another near miss when their right winger nearly touched down in goal but just failed to stay in touch.
Cantabs then moved forward and won a scrum deep in the Harwich half; Danny Searle just failed to touch down, being held up over the line. Two further Cantabs scrums followed from 5m and on the second of these it was Chris Walliker that made the decisive thrust to touch down; 12 to 0 after 15 minutes.
Cantabs continued to press hard, with our forwards winning a lot of the loose ball, and our backs started to throw the ball around. Then on 23 minutes just outside the Harwich 22, a wayward pass was snaffled by the Harwich outside centre, who ran the length of the field to touch down under the posts. A simple conversion made the score 12 to 7, and the Essex supporters started to believe again. Adrian suffered a back injury, and made way for Ben Farmer, who moved onto the left wing, with Irish James taking over at fly half and Euan moving to Centre.
Cantabs went straight back on the attack and with our scrum winning everything, whoever had the put-in, we were soon camped on the Harwich 5m line again. Jonnie and Sami both managed to get over the line but were held up each time. The last action of the half saw Ben Farmer racing clear only to be shepherded into touch metres short of the try line.
Cantabs replaced Cyril at half time with Italian prop Isaia; Charlie moved to hooker. From the kick-off Cantabs were awarded a penalty just outside the 22 and Ali made the kick; 15 to 7. Within a few minutes the action and the penalty were repeated making the score 18 to 7 and Cantabs breathed more easily.
Ten minutes into the 2nd half, Harwich were penalised yet again, but ringing the changes, Irish James kicked for position, looking for a catch and drive. This duly followed, the maul was unstoppable and Chris Walliker finished off taking the honours and his second try. Ali kicked very well from wide out on the left hand touchline to complete the scoring; 25 to 7.
Richard Ford then joined the fray, replacing Ben James, and moved to his accustomed No 8 position, with Jonnie transferring to blindside. Harwich had a rare chance of points, choosing to kick for goal from close to halfway, but in the conditions the kick failed to make the distance. It was now all Cantabs and Harwich were struggling to keep our pack at bay.
With 12 minutes to go, Jonnie Heaver on halfway got the ball out to Euan on the right. He made good ground down the wing, found Paul Graddage inside in support, who was tackled but still managed to get the ball away inside as he fell, to Jonnie who had followed up, to dive over the line for our fourth try, and a bonus point. A great score, and converted by Ali to make it 32 to 7.
Then with five minutes left, the try that really had the Cantabs supporters acclaim. The maul started on the Harwich ten yard line, and moved at speed towards the try line. Just short of the line, Dean switched the ball out to the left, where Ben Farmer shot through for a try in the corner. Ali again defied all to make the conversion from impossibly wide; 39 to 7.
Cantabs were not done however. A line-out on our right, 40m out, was moved by the backs at speed to the opposite wing. There the forwards took control again, the maul started and so as not to be destroyed again by the rolling maul, Harwich piled forwards and backs into the fray. Cantabs then just shipped the ball out to the left where an unopposed and joyous Richard Ford became the last try scorer, going through to touch down in the corner. That was it; final whistle went at 44 to 7.
A comprehensive win for Cantabs, after an exemplary 2nd half performance, Again the pack were tremendous, and Harwich really couldn’t live with them. But, then as yet, no team has managed to handle the Cantabs forwards this season. Harwich took their defeat very well and on their 1st half performance will worry many of the teams in the division. It will be interesting to see how Wisbech fare against them next week at Harwich.
Man of the match was awarded to Jonnie Heaver, for his outstanding try and his general support work, but as coach Steve Drawbridge said after the game there were many in contention. Our rucking and tackling throughout the team were excellent; this really is a team without apparent weakness at present.
A great day for the Club, as our 2nds beat Eastern Counties 2 side, Mildenhall, on the adjoining pitch (54 to 12) and our 3rds managed to draw with Shelford V. The first day in more than three years that we had managed to field three teams on the same day. Something is definitely stirring at Sedley Taylor Road.