Norwich were the visitors to Sedley Taylor Road and looking at their more recent results; a close game was envisaged. The home supporters had enjoyed their French cuisine experience prior to the match, courtesy of Madame Eve and the weather was spring-like as the game started.
Cantabs were without Tom Bailey at hooker, Finn Morrison at openside (out for the rest of the season with a broken thumb) and David Bloxsum on the wing. So, Charlie Searle started in the front row and brother Dan was on the flank. Jonny Regan and Nick Denham returned in the backs. Also good to see Harri Beasley on the bench after a long haul back from knee ligament damage.
Norwich kicked-off towards the clubhouse and Cantabs were soon to take the initiative when a Norwich back tried to hack away a loose ball instead of falling on it. The miskick gave the ball back to Cantabs and Hayward kicked to the corner. From the lineout Cantabs knocked on and the visitors were left to try to defend a scrum on their 5m line. Richard Knight scrapped hard to make the line, but was held up and the second attempt was with our put-in. Norwich held on but when we moved it wide, James Hayward tried to chip over the defence, was obstructed and James made no mistake from in front to give Cantabs the early lead at 3 - 0 after five minutes.
Cantabs put together a great move down the left through Francois Eve, who evaded a couple of tackles close to the touchline and then skipped inside into the 22, going to ground. The ball popped up and their centre intercepted, was mis-tackled and out ran the whole of pitch past the stretched Cantabs defence to score under the posts. The conversion was a formality; 3 - 7.
Cantabs came straight back and some slick passing following a kick to the right hand corner and a Jamie Williams catch, gave our half-backs the opportunity to spin the ball out wide and it was Francois Eve who finally benefitted with an easy chance to score in the opposite corner. The conversion was short from the touchline, but Cantabs were back in the lead at 8 - 7.
Another great run from Eve on the left opened up the Norwich defence again, and a high tackle resulted in a penalty. James made no mistake to push the score up to 11 - 7.
Norwich confidence was visibly growing as their centres started to find space with strong running. A penalty to the right hand corner saw their lineout safely gathered and their maul was adjudged pulled down. The next penalty went straight back to the line, and a repeat performance of catch and drive did the job; Cantabs caught by one of their favourite moves - and with the conversion Norwich were back in front at 11 - 14.
At this stage Norwich were dominating the lineouts and Cantabs the scrums, but it was the visitors finished the half better with Cantabs locked in their own 22, seemingly unable to break out. It was Norwich who had the best chance to increase the score, when their right winger evaded our defence, kicked to the corner and just failed to touch down as the half concluded.
No changes for Cantabs as the second half kicked off, but Norwich again pushed us straight back into our 22. It took a great tackle from Dean James on their right winger to prevent a certain try. After just five minutes of the half, Harri Beasley replaced a limping Jonny Regan on the right wing. Sir was finding lots of high tackles going in from both sides and issued a final warning to both clubs. Nathan Davenport and Ben Tozer joined the game at the expense of Isaia and Shed as Glen rang the changes to refresh the pack.
Yet another high tackle, gave James the chance to kick for the corner. Our lineout was again caught by Norwich but in an attempt to break clear the Norwich forward became isolated and failed to release. Perksy elected for a scrum fifteen metres out, Cantabs failed to take advantage but the Norwich 2nd row had been penalised for going high yet again and was awarded a ten minute break. James elected to kick from 25 metres out but his kick went wide, and the chance had gone. The Norwich drop-out was caught and Perksy set off on one of those charges. He went through five tackles, and I do mean through, before our juggernaut was brought crashing down inside the 22. But the damage had been done; the ball was recycled to the left and accurate passing gave Francois the chance to dart in from the left to score. Again James could not find his kicking boots with a difficult kick from close to the touchline, but Cantabs were finally ahead again at 16 - 14.
Immediately after the restart, which failed to go ten, the Norwich scrum held on, but then spilled the ball to give Cantabs the chance to mount an attack. However, Norwich were then gifted the ball back from a bad knock-on centrally, and their danger man on the right finally got his try as the ball was gratefully shifted out wide; Norwich back ahead at 16 - 19.
Jonny Heaver off, and Dave Evershed rejoined the pack. Cantabs were now doing all the pressing as Norwich fought furiously to keep our attacks out. James Hayward made two great breaks down the right but his final pass was not going to hand and Norwich gratefully took back possession each time. Their clearing kicks were caught by Nick, Harri or Francois and Cantabs continued to press, looking more and more likely to snatch a victory. Perksy went off, Isaia came back on, and Norwich had to defend a scrum inside their own 22. This they managed to achieve and the minutes ticked away.
With full time up and about five minutes of injury time left, Norwich lost another second row to a high tackle and Cantabs moved the ball back and forwards across the Norwich 22. Shed, Isaia, Tozer, Dan Searle, and Dean all battered away to inch towards the goal line. We won a penalty for yet another high tackle, turned down a certain three and tapped for glory. Again the Norwich defence held. We shipped the ball right then back over to the left, finally the flicked pass opened up Norwich and Francois dived over with the cheers of the Cantabs supporters ringing in his ears. Sir had spotted a knock-on, the try disallowed and that was that. Finally score 16 - 19.
Cantabs started brightly, but lost their way. However, the way we battled to win the game at the end was Cantabs at their best. The score did not come and Norwich deserved the victory for extended periods of pressure in the second and third quarters. Too many handling mistakes and some poor lineouts from Cantabs lost us too much possession and with that the match.