It was crunch time for Cantabs, third place West Norfolk were in form and enjoying a run of victories. Wholesale changes for Cantabs at second row, flyhalf, centres and wing. The game was played under lights with a large crowd voicing their support for the home club.
West Norfolk kicked off and Cantabs certainly settled the better. In the first five minutes we had two chances to score. Firstly Francois with a great run down the left out of his own half, and just failed to put Harri away inside their 22. Then Harri again combined with Francois following a clean catch by Ben at the lineout, and Francois was just tackled into touch in the corner.
Cantabs then had a chance to open their account with the award of a penalty centrally but 30m out and the wind pushed the ball wide. The restart was dropped by Perksy on half way, We won the scrum against the head, Dwayne took the ball and the defence on broke the first line of defence to put Sami clear. His run was decisive and he timed his pass to perfection for our supporting full-back. Francois made no mistake, diving over for a try close to the right hand post. Simon made the kick and with just ten minutes on the clock we were 0 - 7 to the good.
Cantabs were making all the running at this point and Francois was again tackled into touch inside the West Norfolk 22. The home side could not break out of their own half, the crowd were silenced and we charged down an attempted kick out. When the home side finally kicked clear Drew ran the ball back well and Cantabs were back in the 22 again. The next clearing kick was short and from the lineout, Cantabs went into a rolling maul, Perksy broke free and scored at ease. This time the kick from wide out on the right was too much for Simon, but we were now 0 - 12 and looking well on top.
Cantabs were caught offside from the restart and the Norfolk fly-half had a shot at goal from the left and 25m out. The wind rather ruined the kick and Cantabs stayed clear. West Norfolk then won a scrum against the head and we hacked a loose ball into touch. And, at this point Cantabs found out about one of the West Norfolk strengths. They caught the ball at the front, formed a maul and before we could put the brakes on, the home side had scored in the left hand corner. Their fly-half made the kick from ridiculously wide in an impossible wind; 22 minutes gone 7 - 12.
A big kick from the home side was allowed to bounce their centre gathered the ball on our 10m line and ran clear. He looked up for support, and attempted to pass inside when he should have kept running; the ball was spilled and Cantabs had a lucky let off. The warning signs were there however and Cantabs reminded that they needed to keep the game tight against the WN hard running backs.
Another kick with the wind was saved by Harri, but our support was not up quick enough, and Harri was penalised for not releasing. The penalty from bang in front was accepted, and it was game on at 10 - 12.
Simon took the restart kick too quickly, but even so someone had moved even quicker and we were brought back for a scrum on halfway. At that point West Norfolk learned that we did have a good scrum. We took the ball against the head. and Aaron shifted the ball out to the backs. Cantabs nearly got through on the left, the forwards had two attempts from rucks to cross the line, then Aaron passed out to the right, Dwayne beat one man passed to Francois, and he was over for his second try to the right of the posts. No problem for Simon, and with 35 minutes gone Cantabs were 10 - 19 to the good. The referee immediately blue for half time! A fair score on the balance of play at this point.
No changes at half time for Cantabs, but the referee declared it would be a 45 minute half; much to Dan Searle's annoyance. Cantabs restarted and immediately won a scrum just ten metres out. Ryan Bigland went close with a strong drive for the line but was held. We were awarded a scrum when they knocked on. This time there was no stopping the pack, Rick Ford held the ball in at the base of the scrum and had a simple task to make the try. Again Simon made no mistake, and the score moved onto 10 - 26; the bonus point secured.
Immediately, West Norfolk replied. A good kick to the corner from a penalty, brought them to five metres from our line. The catch was made, the maul formed, trundled forward and Cantabs had no answer again; 15 - 26 just ten minutes into the half.
From this point on the referee seemed to award all the penalties one way, our lineout throws were going crooked with Thom taking an almighty pasting from the home crowd every time he went to throw in. A combination of penalties and lineout retakes played into the Norfolk men's hands. The made the right hand corner yet again, and started to roll their maul forward. Perksy was alleged to have pulled his man down, and retired for ten minutes. The penalty was tapped into the corner, the rolling maul did its job. The score was now 20 - 26, and Cantabs were under all sorts of pressure. Time and again West Norfolk forced play back into the same corner, won their lineouts with monotonous regularity and mauled the ball towards our line. Twice they were held up over the line, and we scrimmaged our way out of danger.
Cantabs tried to run the ball clear were caught in possession and this time their centre was able to make the line close to the posts. No 10 made the kick and the game had been turned on its head at 27 - 26. Cantabs were shell shocked and just could not make it over the halfway line.
Then with time running out we finally won a penalty. Perksy was back on. Simon kicked it out on their 10m line. For once we got the throw right, and formed our own maul. On and on the maul moved forward up to the WN 22, over the 22, and was finally brought to a halt 15m out. Aaron found Dwayne from the ruck, he spotted a gap and rounded the fullback in typical Dwayne style to score at the posts. Conversion was straight forward for Simon, and surely Cantabs were home at 27 - 33.
West Norfolk were not done. Dwayne was penalised for an illegal tackle on halfway, and given a yellow for his troubles. The home side fly-half lined up the corner; this time on the left. Neither referee or linesman could say whether the kick was good or had gone out in the dead ball area. The kick was ordered to be retaken, and from 10m closer the fly-half mad no mistake. Again Cantabs faced a five metre lineout and somehow withstood the pressure, but the ball was shipped to the backs, and suddenly the home side were in at the corner for their fifth try. The kick was four metres in from the touchline and the referee ruled last play. The crowd were hushed, the ball was struck well, but faded past the wrong side of the posts. Game over and Cantabs had won 32 - 33. What a game, and a superb result for Cantabs. We are still seven points behind Sudbury but now eight points clear of West Norfolk in third. We have played all the toip sides away from home and in the New Year have two more home games than away so promotion is our to lose.
So ends 2014, another great year for the Club, with progress being made on and off the field. Next match is Stowmarket at Sedley Taylor Road on 10th January.