Cantabs travelled to West Ham for the first ever fixture against East London, and were expecting a rare away win as the home side were anchoring the division. Ali McCormick was back from the States, but Fijian centre Samisoni Kididromo had not recovered from his knee injury sustained against Wanstead; his place going to Drew Tilley. Aussie, Josh Schmidt started at flyhalf with James McCaughran moving to centre to replace James Walton. Ian Hislop was promoted for his second start of the season at 2nd Row.
Cantabs elected to kick off down the slope in near perfect conditions on a large flat pitch, which we thought might suit our running game. The kick was fielded by East London who worked the ball back to their kicker just outside the 22. His kick was charged down and Dean broke clear to touch down 10m to the left of the posts. Ali's kick missed but with just one minute on the clock Cantabs were on the score sheet at 0 - 5.
Cantabs were soon back on the attack down the right wing with Charlie Searle's pass just failing to connect with Josh overlapping out wide. The scrum to EL formed just inside the 22. Our power was just too much for the home side who were easily pushed off their ball, Rich Ford picked up at the base of the scrum, made good ground and brought scrum half Dean into play, back to Rich Ford and out to the right to Steve Skeggs on the crash, who went over for an easy score. Ali's conversion faded past the far post but with just 5 minutes gone the score was 0 - 10.
From the restart EL made good ground and found themselves in our 22 for the first time. Cantabs were penalised from not rolling away at the tackle and the home side had a straightforward kick for goal from right in front at 20m. The kick never left the ground, and Francois Eve elected to run the ball back from his own line, evading three tackles and finally being halted on the halfway line. He couldn't keep possession however and EL ran the ball back into our 22, where they gained a scrum in an excellent position. This was to no avail, again we won against the head and moved the ball at speed through the back with Irish James scything though the centre and Ali nearly got away on the right, but the touchline came to EL's rescue. Ali took a quick lineout the backs moved the ball across the pitch to Harri Beasley on the left wing who sprinted over the line close to the corner flag. Try number three we thought, but our honourable touch judge waved the referee across to the opposite touchline just as Ali was lining up the conversion. The lineout should have gone to the home side and the try was reversed. However from the new lineout, Rich Ford tied up their receiver, the maul moved ten metres towards the EL line and with nothing coming Cantabs were awarded a scrum. Inevitably Cantabs gained clean ball Dean and Josh fed Irish who went through the defence like a knife through butter, passed inside to the supporting Dean, who touched down under the posts. Simple kick for Ali, so after 14 minutes it was 0 - 17.
Within two minutes the next scrum saw a great missed move to Irish who again sprinted through flapping defenders to link up with his supporting fullback. Ali transferred the ball back to Irish who ran in under the posts. Ali converted to make the score 0 - 24. Four tries, a bonus point and not yet a quarter of the way though the match.
Drew was the next to break the EL line with another great out of his 22. But he ran away from his support and was penalised for not releasing on the halfway line. Cantabs were not to be denied; Perksy burst through the defence, passed outside to Rich Ford, who made more ground before shipping the ball back inside to Dean, to touch down close to the posts. Ali made the conversion and with 25 minutes gone it was now 0 - 31. That was Perksy finished for the day, taken off to protect those knees for next week's cup semi-final, and making way for the young gun, Denman.
From the next lineout, Rich Ford soared high to make a great catch; the rolling maul moved forward well and was only stopped by a prostrate defender tripping up our forwards. EL got away with that one and making good ground won a scrum in our half, but despite having the put-in, and despite putting the ball in to the 2nd row, they were just shoved off the ball again. Dean to Josh, missed pass to Ali coming into the line, who was brought down on the10m line. EL were penalised for going over to kill the ball, Irish James kicked for touch and from the lineout we won a scrum inside the 22. Dean to Ali on the blindside (for the umpteenth time this season) who raced in for an easy score and try number six. This time his kick rapped the post and stayed out, but the score had moved to 0 - 36 on 33 minutes.
From the restart, Charlie caught the ball, made ground and set up the ruck Dean punted the ball up the right hand touchline. The ball bobbled and ran close to the touchline. The defender thought it was going out, left the ball to Francois, who scooped it up, and ran through to touch down to the right of the posts. 35 minutes gone, a straightforward conversion and it was 0 - 43.
Again Charlie caught the restart and set up the play, Isaia was there for the charge through the defence, back to Dean, and away to the backs yet again. This time Irish kicked for gain, finding touch on the EL 22. Rich Ford stole the ball again at the lineout. The ball was moved to the right via a great run from Harri, Skeggsy in support , tried to get Ali away only to find the ball partially intercepted, the ball bouncing back into Ali's arms. He passed inside to the supporting Josh, who scored under the posts. Ali drop-kicked the conversion and the referee blew for half time with the score at 0 - 50. A great half of running rugby from the Cantabs backs.
Paul Graddage came on for Francois at half time on the right wing. The EL kick-off failed to go 10m so I am sure they were delighted to make re-acquaintance with our front row, Rich Ford moved the ball off the base of the scrum but knocked on in contact inside the EL 22. Somehow the home side managed to hold onto their own scrum for the first time in the match, and kicked their way clear into the Cantabs half where Ali fielded the ball and put right winger Paul away. He cut diagonally across the pitch, at speed, and despite good support, just kept going, making the try line for a great score wide on the left. Ali kicked superbly from the left hand touch and the score moved to 0 - 57.
Next attacking move from Cantabs started in their own 22, with Irish breaking clear again with another diagonal run towards the left hand touch, and timing his pass out to Harri perfectly. Harri just avoided the touchline, cut back inside the cover tackle and repeated the sidestep to beat the next man and ran clear to touch down close to the left hand post. A lovely try from our U20 County man. Ali rapped the post with a far easier chance at the conversion, but less than halfway through the second half we were clear at 0 - 62.
Cantabs then seemed to lose their way somewhat, and failed to kill off their opponents, who started to appear more in our half, but never really threatening to score. Ali then took a break from the action and Francois took over at full-back. He was soon in action making great ground from his own half, beating three men with a great run up to the EL 22 and setting up Charlie Searle in support for a try under the posts, which Josh converted to make the score 0 - 69 on 70 minutes.
Drew suffered a hand injury and had to leave the game, bringing Ali back into play for the last five minutes. But it was the home side that made the next score. Firstly Paul Graddage made a try saving tackle a couple of metres from our try line. But EL won their ruck and shielding their giant No 8 with a couple of forwards he trundled forward over the line for an unconverted try. As Dan Searle said after the game, it was the only time their No 8 made any progress in the entire game; Dan had tackled his heart out to stop him time and time again. Score moved to 5 - 69.
Cantabs were moved into action for the last few minutes and a great kick from Irish found touch ten metres out from the EL line. Rich Ford stole the ball, yet again, our rolling maul moved forward at speed, and it was Isaia Barbieri who got the privilege of finishing the move off, wide on the right. Ali made the conversion with a beautiful kick from the touchline. Final score 5 - 76.
This was East London's heaviest home defeat of the season, our backs had a superb first half, set up by a great pack in the scrum and lineout. Dean got his birthday hat trick of tries out of a total of twelve, but pick of the backs for me was Irish James McCaughran. This win consolidates our fifth place in the league and we moved closer to the leaders, Norwich and South Woodham Ferrers, who both have to come to Sedley Taylor Road.
Next week we go to Beccles for the London Divisional semi-final of the RFU Senior Vase. A final at Maidstone awaits the winners.