Cantabs forwards had dominated Holt in the away match but were beaten by five points when a controversial penalty try was awarded against them. We were bolstered by the return of Finn Morrison, Nick Denham and David Bloxsum in the backs, but it was clearly going to be a case of fourth placed Holt trying to blunt our forwards somehow this time and getting the ball to their speedy backs.
From the start Cantabs showed their attacking intentions and when we won a scrum deep inside the Holt half, Francois Eve was the first to test the opposition defence wide on the right. Holt survived that assault and kicked deep where Tim Charlton failed to get distance on his clearing kick and Holt threatened with an overlap on the left. However, our cover tackling was up to the task and Cantabs were soon back in the Holt half.
From a scrum, with Holt front row under pressure, Toby moved the ball out to the backs, but as the move broke down Perksy took off through the middle as only Perksy can and with the help of Isaia we moved into the red zone. We knocked on, but put their scrum under huge pressure. And, so the game progressed with our lineouts working well and the scrum dominant. In the loose Stuart, Pete and Keegan were on the Holt players like a rash every time they looked to clear, forcing errors and knock-ons.
Apart from a rare kick into the Cantabs half, Holt seldom threatened and Tim Charlton caught all the high balls and fielded all the bouncing ones, setting up wave after wave of blue and white attacks. James Hayward then slotted a little grubber kick though the middle and Isaia was suddenly slicing through the defence, with Charlie on his shoulder. We knocked, won the scrum and this time James hit the corner with another low skimmer. We gained a five metre scrum, Stuart caught our maul did its job but Holt held us up over the line. From the scrum, first Perks, then Shed went close as we battered the line; then the third attempt from Keegan did the trick; 5- 0 to Cantabs and 17 minutes on the clock. The Aussie's first try for the club and well deserved after some great games at flanker for our third pick hooker.
Again our forwards put the Holt defence under huge pressure, forcing the knock-on at the edge of their 22. Perksy, Isaia and Shed created the next break for Francois on the right but he was halted just ten metres out. Isaia broke through with Perksy yet again and although the final pass to our Italian prop was forward, we had Holt defending a scrum right under their posts. Holt cleared, Tim ran it back and popped the ball up, and some aerial ping pong resulted in an offside on the edge of the Holt 22. Toby, 20 years old this week made it an Aussie double, taking a quick tap and then raced through the Holt defence unopposed to score his first ever try for Cantabs. Nick had the simpler conversion this time: 12 - 0 after 30 minutes.
Although Cantabs were dominant, Holt suddenly broke away down the left and it took a great cover tackle from David Bloxsum, coming right across from the opposite wing, to save the day and force the error. Holt broke through again, and were just one tackle away from scoring yet again. A series of four scrums to Cantabs, four kicks to touch all inside our 22, showed that Cantabs could not count the game as won. But, Holt finally ran out of time, still inside our 22, as the half time whistle came.
Harri Beasley came on for Francois at half time, but the pressure was all from Cantabs. Following a scrum, James Hayward moved the ball wide to the right, it came back and he we went wide again, with Tim Charlton finally making the break to score to the right of the posts. James tried his luck with the conversion, but without success; 17 - 0. Pete Collins took a break, Joe Allison taking over at No 8.
The next try followed soon after and this time it was the forwards, following a great drive from Perksy. Not sure who got it but will award it to Stuart as he hasn't scored lately. Nick made the kick, fourth try, bonus point and there was only going to be one winner at 24 - 0.
Holt then pushed us back, won a penalty into the corner, caught the lineout and mauled the ball towards the line. They recycled three times and appeared to go over the line for the score, but Keegan had got something under the ball, and a five metre scrum was the reward for Holt's endeavours. Cantabs cleared the danger, and swapped Charlie for Thom Bailey at hooker.
Another great backs move came next, with Harri Beasley the beneficiary, diving in at the corner flag for try number five; 29 - 0. Holt threatened again and it was Bloxy, yet again, who saved the day with a last ditch tackle to prevent the score.
Cantabs tackling was exemplary throughout the match, Holt were trying to get their backs away but time and again, a man in blue and white was on the case and constricting the opposition to two or three passes at the most. Perksy took a break at this point to rest the old knees and Charlie took over at prop. Francois came back on for Bloxy, Pete Collins for Stef Pritchard with Holt having their best period of the game; but still the men in black could not break through. Cantabs finally broke away with some great inter-passing, only to knock on. Then Tim Charlton made a superb run down the right, beating four men and just failing to get the ball away for the score.
Cantabs pressed again through Thom Bailey, who powered through the middle following a great catch from Pete Collins in the line, the ball moved to the Cantabs left and the pass out was wild, Holt took over through their right winger, who ran the length of the pitch to score close to the posts; 29 - 7 and Mick was not amused!
Holt battled into our half again, but Cantabs were not going to let this one slip. Suddenly, James Hayward intercepted a wild pass on the edge of his 22, and raced away hotly pursued by two Holt men. He was caught a few metres from the line but managed to pop the ball up to a supporting Francois. Under the posts for try number six, and a personal triumph for our flying frog; his first try in a year, following that shoulder injury last January. The conversion from Nick was the last action of the game. Cantabs win at 36 - 7 was one of our best, right up there with the win against Sudbury.
This win still leaves Cantabs in sixth place, but now just a point behind Holt and three behind Rochford Hundred. That's five wins out of the last six games and with our 2nd XV beating Saffron Walden 2nd XV comprehensively at Henham, the club is buzzing at the moment.
Joint man of the match award went to Tim and Toby.
Next home match for the 1st XV is 30th January against title contenders Diss; not one to be missed.