Cantabs travelled down the M11 to face Wanstead, a team that had doubled them last season. Injuries to Finn Morrison, Francois Eve, Rich Ford and Ed Foster and further absentees had caused wholesale changes. But with captain Richard Knight back and James Hayward returning from down under, at least the half back combination was restored. First team debuts this time for Tom Stace at 2nd row and Yuji Shamada who started on the bench.
Wanstead kicked off up the slope on a near perfect autumn day with the crowd in shirt sleeves. Cantabs were soon defending an early penalty, which made our 22. Wanstead clearly had the height advantage in the lineout and went close to scoring, but for a great tackle from Richard Knight. A series of penalties and loose passing from the rare Cantabs attack out of defence, put Cantabs firmly in their own half. But a huge kick down-field from Hayward forced a knock on and Cantabs gained some relief for a short spell. Our tackling was good and with Wanstead seemingly unable to make the decisive break, the game was generally in and around our 22, but the scoreboard was not threatened.
After 12 minutes Cantabs were penalised for an illegal scrum and Wanstead went for goal just inside our 10 metre line, but the kick was pulled to the left. Cantabs then put an attack together, which started with a scrum on our own 22, and the ball was moved left across to Houlden who made good ground down the wing, but could not round the last defender. Good defensive tackling held Wanstead in their own half, but Dean James who had had his finger pulled out of joint in a previous ruck finally left the game after 20 minutes, to be replaced by Yuji Shamada; surely the only Japanese player to make the Cantabs 1st XV.
Mara Tunivanua made a strong break on the right, as Cantabs started to threaten a little more, but he could not break through the last tackle and our support was not up quick enough to save the move. Yet another attack broke down with a poor pass finishing the move with the try line beckoning. Wanstead were at this stage looking a little fragile and Cantabs confidence was visibly growing. Hayward again kicked long, the Stead fullback juggled the ball and was caught in possession. Our kick to touch was on the money but their No 4 swallowed up the lineout and the attack grounded. As the half drew to a close, Cantabs were still attacking, but really not getting close to the try line, with passes going astray at the vital moment and the Wanstead scrum holding firm. No score to either side as the break came.
Perksy came on for Nuggett at the start of the second half. Our restart kick was met by Matt Houlden in the air, and although he did not gather the ball, he caused the Stead defence to panic somewhat. We forced the error and won a penalty inside the 22, Richard Knight took a tap, Wanstead had not retired ten metres and Knight called for a scrum this time. We drove the Wanstead pack back to their own line and seemed to ground the ball over the line, but Sir had already blown for another infringement. Another scrum formed and again Wanstead broke too early. On the third attempt Knight went for the line and appeared to score, but was adjudged to have knocked on. Wanstead just held onto their own ball in the resultant scrum and broke clear down the right. This was the turning point of the match. Wanstead gained a penalty almost immediately, kicked to the Cantabs right hand corner, won their lineout and mauled the ball over the line. After the conversion we were behind at 7 - 0, just seven minutes into the half.
James Hayward kicked over their defence but ran out of space on the right. Adam Fastnedge went close but Cantabs were soon forced back into their own 22 with yet another kick to the corner. The lineout was secured by their tall back row man and the maul did the trick again with Wanstead scoring in the corner, 12 - 0. The Hayward restart again caused mayhem as Houlden charged forward to get on the end of it. We won a penalty, kicked to the left hand corner, and from the lineout, Harry Wilson peeled away and scored at ease. Hayward's kick from the left went wide, but Cantabs were back in the game at 12 - 5.
Again Cantabs attacked straight from the restart and a good penalty to the corner from Hayward won us a lineout inside their 22. Cantabs shipped the ball to the right but the pass to Houlden was far too high, he was stripped of the ball as he fell to ground and Wanstead moved the ball out to their left winger inside their own 22. He beat two cover tackles and ran the length of the pitch to touch down under the sticks, 19 - 5.
Ryan Moclair came back on for Isaia and Henri Cherrington replaced Adam Fastnedge. There was no stopping Wanstead now and when Ollie Townsend was left isolated, he lost the ball and Wanstead took full advantage to score at the posts, 26 - 5. Deano had managed to pull his finger back into shape and resumed at the expense of Yuji. Cantabs continued to press and when a defensive lineout from Wanstead was thrown too long inside their 22, Dean was on it like a flash and bustled through the tackles to score at the left hand post. Hayward could not wait for the tee, and drop-kicked the conversion to bring the score to 26 - 12.
It was too little too late as far as Cantabs were concerned, and although the lads tried to score again it was Wanstead who had the last word. A couple of missed tackles and their winger was away again into the corner to complete the scoring at 31 - 12.
Cantabs went close again but remain pointless at the foot of the division. Yet another injury to cope with. When everyone is back fit, we do have a team to start winning but for Glen and Will the frustration continues. Next game and a pre-match lunch sees Norwich back at Sedley Taylor Road, get down to sample great Railton cooking and some more competitive rugby while the sunshine lasts.