Cantabs were back into League action and returned to Southwold for the second time in a month. This time the wind was from the sea but still storm force, but luckily the rain had not yet arrived. James McCaughran and Francois Eve were out injured, and Chris Walliker unavailable (work commitments). Tom Conder, making his first start since the beginning of the season having recovered from a broken wrist, was in for Chris, and Euan Wilder and James Walton were straight replacements in the backs.
Cantabs kicked off against the wind and according to their President we could expect a harder game. Initially this was not evident with our pack pounding away. But much to the annoyance of our coaches, in the early exchanges our backs were kicking away too much possession. The message did get through and some great handling saw Paul Graddage tackled a foot from the line. Penalty awarded 15 metres out bang in front of goal, but Ali and the fierce wind conspired to miss.
15 minutes into the game, Ali, in his inimitable style ghosted through the Southwold defence from full-back, passed to James Walton, who slipped the ball out to Euan, back into James then back out to Euan for a great score on the left. Conversion by Ali; 0 to 7 and Cantabs were on the way.
Then the referee showed us his keen eye for an offside, for the first time. Penalty to Southwold 30m out centrally, and it was 3 to 7.after 20 minutes.
From the kick-off Cantabs gained a good possession worked the ball forward and it was Isaia who was finally pulled up a metre short of the line on the right; the forwards did their job winning the ruck and Dean James muscled his way over, as only Dean can. Ali made the conversion, just, and it was 3 to 14. So much for a stronger Southwold we thought; just wait until we have the wind at our backs, then we will show them!
35 minute gone and a line out won on the Southwold 22 saw our rolling maul gather a little momentum, but stuttering to a halt 3 metres from the line. Whereupon Dean took over again and forced his way through the Southwold defence to score again. No luck with the conversion (it was "charged down" by one of the fattest forwards on the Southwold side), but we were sailing along at 3 to 19.
Then Sir took over with his keen eye for an offside (twice more). Both times in kickable positions and with unerring accuracy the Southwold kicker slotted home both kicks. So the half finished at 9 to 19. We had all the possession, our scrums were holding up very well, causing their heavy pack lots of problems. We were winning lots of lineouts with Tom and Ben; what could go wrong when the wind with us?
The second half started well for Southwold, and they had more chances to score in the first five minutes than they had in the whole of the first half. Then Cantabs swept forward and again Paul went close on the left. We were penalised for crossing, and Southwold moved the ball from virtually their own try line out to their left winger; two missed tackles later and he was in at the corner for a great score. Somehow the Southwold kicker made the kick, and they were now in the game at 16 to 19.
Then panic seemed to take over, Southwold came back at us again, we somehow threw the ball away ten metres out from our own goal, then in an attempt to regain possession we were penalised for offside again. Easy kick for the Southwold man, and suddenly it was 19 all! So much for an easy second half. The Southwold faithful were now finding their voices, and Cantabs started to blame one another. Was a shock on the cards? It was half way through the second half and the Cantabs angry men were getting angry with themselves and one another.
From the restart Charlie Searle was suddenly sprinting down the left like a winger and raced through from the 22 to score a great try. 19 to 24 and a little breathing space.
Cantabs were now finally in control, the ball went in hand from forwards to backs on the left, then was shifted right through the backs to Paul, who sprinted through for an easy score; 19 to 29. Euan made way for Drew.
Then with ten minutes left, following a penalty scrum to Cantabs 10 metres out from the Southwold line, Southwold healed the ball against the head, it shot straight out of the back of the scrum to the astonishment of all concerned, and not believing their luck the Southwold backs just seemed to freeze, Ben James raced through and touched down; 19 to 34. I should add that the last three conversion attempts by Ali all narrowly missed. Ben promptly left the game to be replaced by Denman; but Southwold had shot their bolt, and we were never really threatened again.
The final whistle came with Cantabs still on the ascendancy, our angry men were no longer angry and the Fat Lady was wearing blue and white. Six tries to Cantabs, one to Southwold, and five points gained for the team.
Final score 19 to 34 (yes, that’s right the RFU website is currently incorrect)
Best news however was reserved for the journey home, when we learned that Ipswich YM had beaten Wisbech 35 to 21; so Cantabs finished the day four points clear at the head of the division with a game in hand.
Cantabs showed yet again they can come back; fitness is definitely not a problem. Warren was central to much of the good stuff in the last quarter, Perksy battered away as only Perksy can, throughout the match and Dean was my man of the match. However, Steve gave that honour to Isaia for his great work in the scrum and in the loose.
We have two home games now: next week against Crusaders, then a somewhat harder game against Ipswich YM. Get down to Sedley Taylor Road to make sure we retain our 100% record, and move closer to making a little piece of history.