Visitors at Sedley Taylor Road were Rochford Hundred, runaway leaders of London 2NE with 13 bonus point wins and averaging 60 points a game; a tough task for a Cantabs side still suffering from a host of injuries and absent stars. Glen and the lads had spent this week in training working on ways to limit the damage as this was a game we were unlikely to win. The Rochford supporters were talking of a 100 points and looking for a divisional record number of points for the season.
Cantabs welcomed back Shed at second row, with a rare outing for Rich Ford alongside him. There were also home debuts for Mara Tunivanua at full-back and prop Ryan Molair on the bench. Jonnie Heaver started at prop and in Richard Knight's absence(wife due to produce their first born), Nick Denham returned to scrum-half. It was a perfect winter day for rugby, a damp pitch, little wind and just one sweater required for the spectators. For the second week in succession the opposition supporters out-numbered those of Cantabs.
CUDDRR to their credit had provided three officials for the second week in succession as Rochford kicked off towards the clubhouse. Cantabs were clearly up for this one, after a poor showing the previous week, with our tackling fast and furious in an effort to curtail the Rochford backs. However after six minutes a Rochford scrum, midway between the Cantabs 10m and 22m lines, saw the ball shifted to the right, and our cover defence was sliced apart; 0 - 5.
Cantabs continued to fight for every loose ball, the Rochford lineout was below par and Ford and Collins were winning more than their fair share of ball. Ollie Townsend dummied to kick and made good ground before putting his fullback away. But Rochford were soon back on the attack. Cantabs gave them no room whatsoever and had a good ten minute spell of territorial advantage, but not really threatening the line. Cantabs continued to tackle like demons and would surely not be able to keep up the momentum. Problems with the referee's wiring system gave our lads some well deserved breathing space.
Eventually, a good kick deep into our 22 from the Rochford fly-half, gave them a clear chance to attack our lineout. The throw was hurried, their second row seized on the loose ball and was over the line. This time the conversion was good; 0 - 12 after 24 minutes.
Jonnie Regan had a great run, cutting in from the right, but was swallowed up when he failed to use the support inside on their 22. Cantabs were certainly having the best of the territory still and their supporters were moaning that their side was not playing well, but in truth it was the pressure that Cantabs were putting on them; up very quickly on the ball carrier.
The pressure told when following another good scrum from Rochford inside our 22, their full-back moved into the line to score close to the posts; 0 - 19 after 32 minutes and three tries from just four attacking positions for the Essex men.
The fourth, and bonus point try came from a lineout inside our 22. Rochford moved the ball sharply out to the right winger, he dummied to go for the corner and then stepped inside the two cover defenders to score to the right of the posts; 0 - 24. Half time.
Jim Bryant was on for Adam at half time. Initially, Rochford pinned us back in our own half, but still Cantabs were tackling as if their lives depended on it, certainly not over-awed by the opposition. Rochford got to within five metres but Pete Collins stole their ball with a great leap, and Nick Denham's clearing kick cleared the danger. Cantabs three man lineout had worked once, but the second attempt was crooked and we were back under pressure again. Rochford were awarded a penalty 15m out, went for the scrum. Again the scrum did the job for the opposition, they span the ball wide and scored in the right hand corner, with our tacklers all tied in with their pack; 0 - 29 with fifteen minutes of the half gone.
Our scrum was holding up better than against Chelmsford, the previous week, but with Rochford backs able to move the ball so quickly, we were constantly battling to prevent the next try. We progressed up to the 22, won a penalty for offside. Nick found touch, fifteen metres out, and we caught the ball, but the pass to scrum-half was too strong and Rochford killed the move. James Balfe was now on and his first serious action was to make a try-saving tackle in the corner, stopping a certain score. He took a knock to the head as a result and was soon sitting the game out with concussion. Ryan Molair came on for his debut a tight head and Jonnie Heaver, moved to 2nd row - Shed off to save him for the vital games coming up in the next two weeks.
Cantabs continued to repel attack after attack from Rochford. Ollie saved another try next to the posts, by getting a hand under the ball. The respite was short-lived, from the resultant scrum, Rochford got a serious shove going for the first time and their No 8 finished the move under the posts; 0 - 36.
Again Rochford attacked, won a lineout 10m out, the catch and drive was on the money, with their 2nd row man taking the honours; 0 - 43.
Next try was the best of the game, and it went to Cantabs. Mara Tunivanua, took the ball just outside our 22, and sliced through the Rochford defence up to their 1m line, found Jim Bryant in support on his right and Jim out-sprinted the defenders to run round behind the posts. Nick added the extra and it was 7 - 43; just reward for Cantabs and worth the annual subscription on its own for yours truly.
Rochford were somewhat annoyed at this upset and just had time for a further score in the right hand corner, which went unconverted. Game over at 7 - 48.
To a man, Cantabs fought every inch of the way, but despite this Rochford gained their 14 the straight bonus point win and moved to 830 points for the season. Cantabs are now rooted at the bottom of the division, but with Romford back with us next week and Woodford away to follow, we need to play like this and our run of losses will surely end. Nick Denham got Man of the Match, but frankly it could have gone to any of our eighteen.