Seven changes in the squad for this rearranged fixture against Old Brentwoods. Our best wishes go to Seb Trower who was only released from Addenbrookes on Friday after extensive surgery to pin his tibia back together; his place at No 8 went to Pete Collins.
Ed Scott Dickins was making his 1st XV debut at 2nd row partnering Jonnie Heaver and Ollie Lewis had also been promoted from the 2nd XV at blindside for this "must win" encounter. Also great to see Dean James and Joe Allison on the bench after long injury breaks. It is a testament to the current playing strength of the Club that we can call on such talent when needs must.
OB kicked off with the wind behind them on a well grassed and near perfect pitch, which had been flooded two weeks previously. The first five minutes of the game saw Cantabs camped in the opponents 22, but all the pressure yielded no early score. Cantabs dominance in the scrum was not as pronounced early on with the OB heavy pack doing well to scramble the ball away through their No 8. The first real attacking move from our backs was initiated with a drive out of our 22 by Isaia and when the ball reached David Bloxsum on the left wing it was clear he had the pace to do some serious damage given the space. Orders from Mick Jones were to forget the kicks at goal and go for the bonus point in tries, so a couple of early penalty kicks were turned down; David Reed going to the corner instead.
However, the stiff breeze made accurate lineout throwing a bit of a lottery and Cantabs passing became a little wild in the backs in the desperation to make the first score. Again and again play moved out wide to Bloxsum and OB to the credit always seemed to have the third or fourth man available to thwart his runs. After 15 minutes of continual pressure and no score, Irish James pushed a grubber kick up into the OB 22 on the right, and the pressure continued with a series of scrums following which lead us right up to their 5m line, Cantabs got John Lineham to within a metre but OB held firm.
Time and time again Cantabs were denied good possession with their aggressive No 8 winning ball at the back of the scrum or in the rucks, sometimes seeming to be offside. Then from a penalty awarded just inside the OB 22, again very kickable, Jonnie Heaver took a quick tap, burst through three tackles and made the line. David's kick drifted wide with the wind, but 25 minutes of play and we had broken our duck at 0 - 5.
Charlie had started to throw short in the lineout and for the third time in the first half, Isaia took the 5m ball well and made ten metres to set up yet another attack. Dan Searle then broke up a rare OB attack with a steal inside his own 22 and bullied his way clear to set up the ruck and yet another attack.
With 10 minutes of the half remaining Josh Schmidt left the game with an abdominal strain bringing Deano on for his first game for the 1st XV in 15 months. He was immediately into his stride just being denied a try; being tackled a metre short. Half time and Cantabs with it all to do and only 5 points to show for all the pressure.
If OB thought they had contained our scrum, they were in for a shock as Perksy was brought on at tight head for the restart, Jon Lineham moving to 2nd row and Ollie taking a break. Immediately Cantabs were on the attack and this time it was Finlay Wilson making the break on the right wing, beating three defenders and was just tackled ten metres out. The ball was spilt forward, we took the ball against the head, and went even closer. OB had been in disarray, so Dan chose the option of a scrum. Deano picked up at the base and in true bustling style got to within five metres of the line to set up the ruck. Perksy then took over and that was that, try to Perks to the right of the posts, kick from David was successful and we were on the way at 0 - 12. That try took our league points total over 800!
David then kicked to the left hand corner, the throw drifted wide and OB had to face our front row on their 5m line. Cantabs pressure told and Sir penalised the OB No 8 with a ten minute break. We chose to take the scrum, OB seemed to hold us and as the scrum started to wheel, we moved the ball out wide to the left where Finlay had a simple job to pick up the third try in the corner. David missed the conversion but Cantabs were now well on top at 0 - 17.
Finlay went close again shortly afterwards, being brought down ten metres out from the posts. This time some erratic passing out of the ruck denied Cantabs as OB kicked clear against the wind. Jonnie Heaver went close again with a second quick tap. Cantabs came straight back at them and moved the ball wide with Finn Morrison making the decisive break to score at the corner for the decisive fourth try. David kicked the extra points beautifully from the right hand touchline, and we were away at 0 - 24.
Joe Allison was brought into the action, as Mick rotated his men. Now it was just a case of who would score next, with our backs pouring out at OB time and time again. A long kick down the centre from our fly-half saw their full-back caught in possession and Cantabs stole possession. Deano moved the ball out to the right and Pete Collins finished off the move with a try in the corner; score now 0 - 29.
OB were restored to fifteen, but Cantabs were now rampant. A penalty kick into the right hand corner saw Cantabs win the lineout, Perksy stormed around the line to set up the ruck and from 10m out our bustling scrum-half bullied his way over for the try. Deano was back! David's kick rapped the post and stayed out; 0 - 34.
Then, the best move of the game. Finn Morrison broke clear from well inside his own half, ran the ball to the right, passed to Finlay, he beat his man and passed back to Finn inside, he moved out wide, Finlay received the ball inside, they swapped over again and Finlay's pass back to Finn put the centre over for our seventh try to the right of the posts. David's kick was true and we were at 0 - 41.
Next try went to Bloxsum with a characteristic burst down the left wing, and very well deserved it was, after some dazzling wing play throughout the game. David's kick took the score to 0 - 48. Isaia got his hand stamped on and took a break for the last ten, Jon Lineham was restored at prop.
Captain Dan Searle, was now urging his men forward at every opportunity. Bloxsum broke away clear on the left, Finlay just failed to score and John Lineham was on the ball like a back to dive over for the try in the corner. David converted the try to make the score 0 - 55.
OB to their credit then pushed hard for the line, were denied (illegally according to Sir) by Pete Collins who took an enforced break. From the resultant 5m penalty, it was fitting that their No 8 scored in the corner. The only blot on the scoresheet, but he had been a thorn in our sides all match. The failed conversion was the last play of the match and Cantabs work was over at 5 - 55.
The bonus point put us back into 2nd place in the division, a point ahead of West Norfolk with three games left to play. Games that we must now win to gain promotion. Next week the first of these is at home to Wanstead.
Equally good news game through the ether as the match finished; our 2nd XV had won 13 - 0 against title rivals Saffron Walden 2nds, away at Henham. The lads now have to beat Sawston away next week in their last league match to take the Eastern Counties 2W title and go into the playoffs for a chance to move into Eastern Counties 1.
When you consider that just three seasons ago our 1st XV were in that same league, it is a clear indication of just how well the Club is progressing.
Yesterday it was also confirmed that our 3rd XV had finished runners-up in Eastern Counties 3W.