Cantabs were still looking for their first win of 2017, and opponents Woodford, making their first ever trip to Sedley Taylor Road, had beaten promotion contenders, South Woodham Ferrers, in their last match. Cantabs were without Dave Evershed again at 2nd row, and it was all change at centres, with Xaver Touschek and Euan Willder pairing up for the first time.
Woodford kicked off towards the clubhouse, but knocked on immediately and our scrum looked likely to dominate from the way the first encounter went. Cantabs first attack came to nothing but David Bloxsum caught the clearing kick and ran the ball straight back to the Woodford 22. The pack secured the ball and this time Hayward hit the right hand corner with a well-placed kick. Cantabs were through on the lineout and Woodford were forced to touch down in goal. From the resulting 5m scrum. The pack did their job, but the ball squirted out at the back and Richard Knight was first to react, picked up the loose ball and dived over for the first score; 5 - 0 with less than five minutes gone.
Woodford's restart kick was on the money and Cantabs had to defend against the opposition's first backs move. Our cover defence was up to the danger and their right winger was tackled into touch, ten metres out. At this stage Woodford were competing well but the top surface of the pitch was starting to cut up badly, making backs play somewhat of a lottery. The next scoring chance went to Cantabs when Hayward kicked through and Jamie Williams was first to the ball, appearing to touch down, but he was adjudged to have knocked on and the try was disallowed.
Cantabs were now getting on top, the Woodford scrum and lineout was not performing. Following a spell of pressure, Hayward made the decisive break, Tom Bailey was up in support, making 25 metres into the Woodford 22. Just as he was about to be tackled, he managed to pass out to Bloxsum on his right shoulder and the flying winger did not disappoint, touching down under the posts. Our flyhalf converted to make it 12 - 0.
Another great kick to the corner from James pushed Woodford back into their 22. A scrum resulted from a scrappy lineout as we knocked on in an attempt to win the ball, Richard made it difficult for his opposite number at the back of a retreating pack, and Cantabs piled on the pressure. Woodford cleared, but with Jamie Williams catching well Cantabs were soon on the attack again. Yet again, James Hayward kicked low and won the race to the ball, hacked on again, tried to pick up, but the ball squirted out forwards as he tried to pass off the ground to his winger. Another chance gone, but clearly Cantabs were on top. From the 5m scrum, Cantabs soon won the ball back and moved the ball through the backs, to the right and then back again to the left, looking for the chance to break through. Cantabs finally got the ball over through Perksy, but he could not ground the ball. This time our 5m scrum, did its job and moved into goal. Just as Jamie went to touch down, he was denied by their flanker who had broken too soon. A penalty try was awarded; Cantabs moved to 19 - 0. At this point the Woodford side looked down and out and were pleased to kick the ball out to finish the half.
Glen took the lads out of the mud for the full ten minutes, but it was Woodford who started the half the better of the two sides, putting us under pressure for a five minute spell. Woodford then lost their flyhalf to injury, which delayed the scrum under our posts. When play resumed Cantabs broke clear down the right and Hayward's kick was backed up well putting their fullback under pressure as he tried to gather the ball on the edge of his 22. Woodford finally kicked clear, Dean James caught the ball, shipped it out to his left and Euan found Bloxy on the left wing. He beat his man, cut inside and scored at ease under the posts; 26 - 0 with a straightforward conversion. Captain Perksy left the field, to protect his ailing back, Charlie Searle taking over at prop. He was straight into the action with a catch out on the right wing, sold his defender a great dummy and set up the next attack. Cantabs then went close again with Hayward and Bloxsum exchanging passes twice down the left wing, before the vital pass to our winger slipped through his hands into touch.
Woodford pressed again and pushed us right into our left hand corner with a penalty. Jamie won the lineout and tapped the ball to his scrum half. Richard spotted the gap in the line raced through, and set up his backs. The ball was passed out to the right, Hayward to Xaver, he made good ground, out to Euan Willder at speed, and when Alex Rayner got the ball with a beautifully timed pass from Euan, the defence was nowhere to be seen. Fifth try, this time not converted, but Cantabs were singing at 31 - 0.
Francois Eve and James Balfe joined the game, but ill discipline and a never-ending series of penalties were denying Cantabs each time they attacked. Then Woodford were defending their 22, with a scrum 15 metres out. Richard wrestled the ball from his opposite number and somehow burst through two tackles as the scrum broke up. Dean was up on his shoulder to take the pass and scored under the posts; 38 - 0 and game over.
Woodford had other ideas, however. Finally their lineout 20 metres out started to work. Catch and drive, a great maul which we could not halt and they were finally on the score sheet. The conversion was also good; 38 - 7.
Cantabs were taking it too easy and got caught again. Another penalty pushed us back into our 22. Their big 2nd Row took the tap from yet another penalty and scored to make it 38 - 12. Penalty after penalty was conceded by Cantabs, several of them seemingly disputed verbally as or discipline went. Finally Sir had heard enough and Finn took no further part in the last few minutes of the game. The match then petered out and it was a very muddy 30 players that left the field at the final whistle.
So, Cantabs are back to winning ways with this double over Woodford. We are now five points clear in 3rd place, but with little likelihood of catching either Diss or South Woodham Ferrers. Richard Knight gets my vote for man of the match with Dean James running him close.
Next game for the 1st XV is a visit to bottom of the table Campion on 11th February. Next home game is against a resurgent Norwich on the 18th February, when we will also be holding a pre-match lunch.