Cantabs had recently fared well against Beccles with a run of four consecutive victories, but the Suffolk men could always be expected to test us on their own patch. Captain Rich Ford had still not recovered from a hip injury and Warren Cowan was deputising for him for the second week. Yet another combination at centre, with Simon Hallissey and Drew Tilley replacing the unavailable James McCaughran and Finlay Wilson.
Cantabs kicked off against a strong breeze and bright sunshine, but ground conditions were near perfect. Cantabs made all the early running and were soon threatening the try line after concerted pressure. With good drives from Pete Collins and Perksy, Beccles conceded two early penalties for offside, but although Jack Sykes set up the lineouts deep in the 22 an each occasion, Cantabs failed to capitalise. A jinking run from Harri Beasley then moved play back into the Beccles 22 and yet another offside led to a third lineout just 15m out from the Suffolk line. Warren linked with Charlie from the throw to touch down in the right hand corner, but he had put a foot into touch.
Their No 12 reminded us of his kicking prowess with a giant clearance with the wind right up into the Cantabs 22 and the Beccles men had finally cleared the danger. This gave the home side a chance to bring their dangerous outside centre into the game, and Cantabs struggled to stem his surging runs. Were it not for a great one on one tackle from Paul Graddage in the right hand corner, Beccles would have opened their account. Our first decent backs move away to our right wing made ground back into the Beccles half, with the home side again going offside. The penalty brought us into the 22, the catch and drive rumbled forward, then Pete Collins broke for the line, became isolated and pinged for holding on just metres from the line.
In the set scrums, our pack was unable to dominate with their tight head causing our front row some grief. For once our scrummaging was not relieving the pressure, Beccles winning two scrums against the head. Beccles spurned another chance of a try with an overlap on the left, but a loose pass to the left winger denied them a certain try. The home side continued to press just outside our 22, and finally the deadlock was broken after 32 minutes with a straightforward penalty from within our 22; 3 - 0 to Beccles. We then lost Drew Tilley with a suspected broken rib and Spaniard Pedro Sanchez took his place at centre.
Shortly after the restart, Beccles were penalised for handling in the ruck, and Jack had a chance to level it from 30m centrally. The kick went wide as did the next penalty from 35m and the score remained unchanged as we reached half time.
Mick Jones changed the front row at half time with Mikey Goode replacing Charlie at hooker. From the start of the second half Cantabs were soon on the offensive. Another penalty from Jack brought us to the 5m line and the catch and drive that followed saw desperate defending from Beccles. Dave Evershed made the line but was adjudged held up. When the pile of players came to their feet it was clear Shed had grounded the ball but the referee was unsighted. The 5m scrum was yet again disrupted by Beccles, who had wheeled most scrums on our ball. Their flanker added insult to injury by breaking his bind to pluck the ball out of our second row right in front of Sir!
Our backs were not getting going, and a dropped ball gave Beccles the chance to push forward for the first time in the half. Again their No 13 was instrumental, setting up another dangerous break for the left winger. A limping Pedro emerged from that play to be replaced by Dan Searle at Centre. Brother Charlie followed him into the action this time rejoining the pack at prop, instead of Jonnie Heaver. Harri Beasley then beat three men with another jinking run down the left, to set up play deep inside the Beccles 22. The Suffolk side were penalised yet again for offside and Cantabs elected for a scrum only 6m out. We moved play to within a metre from the line but were penalised for holding on and Beccles kicked clear. From the lineout, hooker Mikey Goode hobbled off to the sideline with a damaged Achilles, bringing Jonnie back into the game.
It went from bad to worse, we were penalised just outside the 22, Cantabs disputed the decision, which took the kick to 15m out. Mr Reliable No 12, slotted home the kick; 6 - 0 to Beccles and Cantabs looking desperate with just 15 minutes left on the clock.
Another penalty for offside gave us the lineout on the edge of the Beccles 22. The lineout was perfect the maul did its job, Bevan broke clear, went over the line. He tried to cut inside to go closer to the posts, switched the ball to hand off the full back and dropped the ball to the delight of the home side. It was just not our day!
Cantabs continued to press hard and the try finally came following a long period of pressure. The scorer was Pete Collins, but Beccles had pushed us deep into the right hand corner giving Jack a difficult conversion chance. His kick went a metre wide to make it 6 - 5.
Cantabs became more and more frantic in their attempts to get back into the Beccles half and inevitably two further chances came to the Suffolk men with very kickable penalties. The first was missed, but No 12 made no mistake with the second to make the final score 9 - 5; Cantabs losing their first game of the New Year.
This is a match we needed to win, but at least we remain second in the table, with a six point advantage over Old Coopers in third place, who also lost heavily to Campion. Coopers have played two games less than Cantabs, so next week's game away to fifth place Upminster is now vital; nothing short of a win will do.