In the golden era of pre-league rugby Norwich were always the team to beat and provided some of the toughest opposition that the Old Cantabrigians ran up against. Prior to this encounter just two points separated the teams with Cantabs in fifth place and Norwich in sixth, so another tough match was envisaged. Three wins in the last three league games would secure fourth place for either side; so still a lot to play for.
Stef Pritchard was back at 2nd row and youngster Robbie Murdoch lined up for his second start at fly-half. Our Aussie scrum-half, Toby Carver, had his parents watching from the touchline; surely the furthest anyone has travelled to watch a Cantabs game.
A one minute silence was observed prior to kick-off in memory of Kevin Austin, backs coach and Treasurer of Norwich RFC, who had passed away the night before. Our condolences go to Kevin's family; we hope to see the Austin name live on at Norwich through his two sons who would normally have been playing in this fixture.
On a beautiful spring day, with the pitch flat but sparsely grassed; Norwich kicked off towards the clubhouse and were soon on the attack, when Cantabs failed to deal with the drop-out. It took a good tackle from Francois to halt the Norwich left winger, but the ball was swiftly moved back to the right and the opposition No 8 just made the line, to the right of the posts, to open the scoring after just over a minute of play. The conversion was successful; 0 - 7 and Cantabs knew they were in a game.
Robbie's restart kick was spilled and Cantabs lined up for a scrum just inside the Norwich 22. Sir took issue with the opposition front row, we went for the corner, but knocked on at the lineout giving Norwich the put-in eight metres out. Cantabs front row needed no further incentive and promptly won the ball against the head; the scrum trundled forward and Ben James was denied just short of the line by desperate defence. Cantabs recycled the ball and our Italian stallion, Isaia Barbieri, was not to be halted this time, scoring with the weight of the pack shoving him over the line. Robbie's kick faded wide, but we were on the scoreboard at 5 - 7.
Cantabs were soon back in the Norwich half winning a scrum and drawing yet another penalty. Jon Perks elected for another scrum 20 metres out. Another penalty against Norwich meant we went for the corner. This time the throw was caught by Stef, Toby switched the ball out to the left, but the move stalled and Finn recycled the ball at the tackle. Toby switched the ball back to the forwards in the right hand corner and Isaia was at hand again, this time blasting over from six metres out for his second try; 10 - 7 with ten minutes gone.
Next meaningful attack was instigated by Keegan Evans, who broke from his own half beat two men and made 50 metres before running out of steam on the Norwich 22. Keegan's aggression allowed the ball to be recycled at the breakdown and the backs swept the ball to the left. But for a forward pass to Xaver, our centre would have scored. But the Norwich pack had another scrum to defend inside their 22 for their troubles. The Cantabs scrum did its damage again the ball was moved to the right, where Norwich were caught offside. Perksy went for the jugular, and elected for a scrum less than ten metres from the line. Another clean strike from the orange-booted Tom Bailey, was all it needed for Cantabs to set up the drive. Norwich broke too soon, Sir had seen enough; penalty try awarded to Cantabs. Robbie's kick cleared the railway line to the dismay of Goochy, but the kick was good; 17 - 7.
The next try followed a mesmerising run which started deep inside his own half by full-back Tim Charlton. Tim must have gone by six tacklers darting between defenders, until he finally got the ball away fifteen metres out from the line. Stuart Williams went closest, as Cantabs went for the line; the ball was recycled to the right and Dave (Shed) Evershed was not to be denied, scoring to the right of the posts despite all attempts to fell him. Toby, who had taken over kicking duties, made the conversion and Cantabs had their bonus point at 24 - 7 on 32 minutes.
Our Aussie pair set up the next attack, a Carver dummy putting the red-capped Keegan away on one of his aggressive runs, but although Cantabs still pressed hard for the remainder of the half, there was no further score.
Mick Jones gave Keegan a break at half time following an injury to his jaw, Joe Allison moving into the back row. It took Cantabs five minutes to get their show back on the road following the restart. Robbie's long pass to the left was caught by Perksy, who did enough to hold on and finally get the ball away under extreme pressure as he waited for support. It was Robbie himself who took advantage weaving his way between defenders to go over under the posts. No trouble for Toby and the score was 31 - 7.
Francois then took a break allowing Drew a run out on the right wing, Jonnie Heaver took over from Isaia at prop. Ben James also retired from the game with a hip injury.
Finn Morrison, who had been a thorn in the Norwich side all afternoon with his aggressive straight running, made a determined effort to reach the line, and it took a high tackle to deny him five metres out, right under the posts. Perksy elected for the scrum, the resulting maul looked to have given our captain a try, but somehow Norwich kept him out. Ball held up was the result and we went for the 5m shove, but somehow missed out again. We opted for another scrum, Norwich were penalised again. This time Toby tapped from 15m out and with the help of Tom Bailey he had the impetus to somehow ground the ball for try number six. Toby's conversion rapped the right hand post and stayed out; 36 - 7 and Norwich looking ragged.
The very next scrum saw the ball reach Perksy ten metres out; a side step and a couple of hand-offs later and he was diving over next to the posts to rapturous applause which he took with a huge grin on his face. Toby converted to make the score 43 - 7.
Isaia went back on for the last ten minutes, Jonnie moving to No 8. Francois returned when Xaver came off with a neck injury. The final Cantabs try came as a result of a long pass from Toby which found Stef who went over for the eighth try virtually unopposed, again close to the posts; 50 - 7.
Norwich had the last say however. A great move from half way down the left saw the ball won at the ruck and their backs finally got their right winger away. He was high tackled into touch, Sir awarded a penalty try to Norwich. Final score 50 - 14.
This win makes fifth place pretty secure as we moved seven points above Norwich. Next game is away to Rochford Hundred who beat us narrowly at Sedley Taylor Road. The season then concludes on St George's Day with a game against Romford & Gidea Park.
Fantastic defence from Cantabs, with our back row tackling like demons, Cantabs denied Norwich any clear chances for all but two minutes of the game; the first and the last. The older members could not recall a more conclusive win against our old opponents, and the beaming face of Perksy rather summed it all up as the teams trooped off at the finish.