Two narrow defeats against 2nd and 3rd place teams had left Cantabs next to bottom in London 2NE, and only two wins in the last two games could prevent the Club from dropping down a league. So, this fixture against Romford & Gidea Park was vital. For the first time in the season both Dean James and Finn Morrison lined up together as flankers. Jonny Heaver was out with an ankle injury, and Rich Ford took over at 2nd Row. Mara Tunivanua made a rare start at fullback with Nick Denham also side-lined by injury. But with our top-rated front row starting we were in with a chance.
The breeze had strengthened as Romford kicked off, but otherwise conditions were pretty perfect for rugby. Cantabs worked the ball forward and at the first scrum it was clear that Cantabs were going to dominate that area of the game. But it was Romford that went close to scoring first with clearance down the right which found their right winger. It took a great tackle from Danny Richards to prevent the score. Romford then had a clear chance to go ahead with penalty on the edge of our 22, but the kick went wide. Two further penalties saw Cantabs defending lineouts on 5m on the left. Danny Richards offended once too often and was yellow carded. Romford again went close, dropping the ball over the line, and with the wind at their backs the home side were causing us a deal of trouble. Yet another penalty was followed by another 5m lineout, and again Cantabs managed to get under the ball. The 5m scrum was well defended, and Cantabs finally broke clear.
Cantabs then worked the ball up to the Romford 22, but Finn Morrison got isolated and Romford won the ball back. The home side worked the ball out to the left and moved the ball well. Some poor tackling from Cantabs and suddenly Romford had scored to the left of the posts; 5 - 0, with the conversion failing.
Soon Sir had evened up the numbers when the Romford open-side took a ten minute break. Cantabs were now getting into the game. A tapped penalty to Perksy saw our prop try to run through his opposite number. Perksy survived, but the Romford tight head left the field, permanently as it turned out. The game restarted with a Cantabs scrum, and from that point Cantabs started to dominate. However, Shed had suffered another back injury, and Charlie Searle took over alongside Rich Ford. Cantabs won a penalty, took the scrum option ten metres out, secured the ball, Rich Ford to Richard Knight who dived over in the corner; 5 - 5. James Hayward's kick never made it against the wind, but Cantabs were back in the game after 25 minutes.
Just three minutes later Cantabs won a scrum against the head on our 10m line, Drew Tilley made the break, found Mara Tunivanua up in support, and Drew was on hand to take the return pass to score to the right of the posts. This time James made no mistake
to bring the score to 5 - 12.
Cantabs were now well on top, and a good driving run from Danny Richards, gave the supporting Pete Collins the chance to make try number three in the right hand corner. Again James was on the money and Cantabs were away at 5 - 19 after 35 minutes. The Romford No 7 was restored to the game, but during his absence we had crossed the line three times.
There was still time for another yellow card, this time Dean James was the recipient, a minute before half time. No further score in the half. Romford had gone to uncontested scrums, but it took Will Riggs some time to persuade the referee of the rules, and only an intervention by the Assessor at half time persuaded Sir to relieve Romford of a player for the second half.
Cantabs made no changes at half time, and Romford started the half the brighter. Hayward was now using the following wind to good effect and a huge kick from his 22, made it to the foot of the posts at the other end, where Cantabs backs pinned the Romford full-back to the ground. Romford kicked for touch, we won the lineout, moved the ball left then back to the right, and Hayward made the break past the first tackler, found Rich Knight in support and his pass out of the tackle allowed Pete Collins to score his second try. James Hayward's kick was successful from out wide; 5 - 26 and a try bonus point was in the bank.
Romford were next to score, despite what appeared to be a try-saving tackle from captain Tom Bailey in the left hand corner. Sir was right up with play and despite the two players hitting the corner flag, the Romford winger was awarded the score; and the score was on to 10 - 26.
Cantabs won the next uncontested scrum, Cantabs broke clear through Hayward, exchanged passes and Adam Fastnedge scored under the posts, 10 - 33, and Romford looked well beaten. Perksy, decided enough was enough, with mickey mouse scrums on the agenda, he was preserved for the last match of the season and Ben Tozer took over. Hayward continued to pepper the Romford full-back with high kicks and our backs were up quickly to worry the Romford defenders. Sir needed treatment as he pulled a hamstring, and Will Riggs used five metres of tape to keep him in the game. James Hayward took a penalty from half way which rapped the post, and Romford were suddenly defending ten metres out as our backs followed up on the kick.
The next score followed soon after and went deservedly to Finn Morrison, who had tackled his heart out. This one followed yet another uncontested scrum. Dean James went close, worked the ball back and the pass from Richard out to the right allowed Finn to score in the right hand corner. Hayward used the wind to curl the ball inside the far post from the touchline; 10 - 40.
Danny came back on for Isaia, but had to be on his best behaviour as Sir had warned him that he was close to giving him a second yellow. However, the card was out again before too long, this time Adam Fastnedge was carded for going offside.
There was just time for Isaia to get back on for the last five minutes, but there was no further score. Cantabs had enjoyed their best away win of the season and now need a win against Old Cooperians at Sedley Taylor Road next week. This was a great team performance, half the job is done. Now, get down to the pre-match lunch - there are still places available - support the lads and cheer them on.