It was local derby time at Sedley Taylor Road, Saffron Walden were the visitors and Cantabs had a lot of ground to make up following the hiding (81 to 17) that they had suffered at Henham. CUDRRS kindly supplied three referees, so Al Sadler could enjoy his Christmas pudding
All change in the front row from the drawn game against Romford; Perksy and Isaia propping and Will Knights hooking. Rich Ford was back at second row. However, James Hayward had not recovered from ankle injury so youngster, Ollie Townsend took over at fly-half. Keiran Dolaghan missed his train connection and the match, which gave Tom Skelton a chance at full-back.
It was a bitterly cold day, but the sleet had held off as Cantabs kicked off towards the railway. Ollie's drop kick was half caught by a soaring Matt Houlden, but he took out Rich Ford in the attempt and Richard left the field for an eye cut to be sorted. Enter Dean James, Tom Stace moving to second row.
Walden started the brighter and moved well down the left wing. It took some desperate defending from Cantabs to stop Walden from scoring. Our lineout was not functioning to well and wave after wave of Walden attacks assisted with a number of off-sides from our defenders had Cantabs completely on the back foot. Walden won a penalty in the right hand corner and went for the lineout on five metres. Cantabs stole the ball and Adam Fastnedge kicked clear. We then won a scrum on our 22, Richard Knight secured the ball, dummied to pass and somehow wriggled his way forward into space. Suddenly he was clear and ran the length of the pitch, off-loaded to his right as he was tackled 5 metres out. Danny Richards, supporting on his shoulder, dived over the line; 5 - 0 to Cantabs.
Cantabs were adjudged too keen at the breakdown, and getting penalised frequently. Penalty after penalty kept us pinned in our half until yet again Walden were camped on our 5 metre line. But, some great tackling caused Walden to spill the ball. Jon Perks had two battling runs to make the hard yards and Richard Knight was causing all sorts of problems at the back of the scrum for his opposite number on our ball. Deano gave way to a patched up Rich Ford. Walden's backs were threatening but time after time throughout the first half poor handling ruined promising moves, giving our dominant scrum the chance to demonstrate its superiority.
Cantabs worked their way up-field methodically and found themselves inside the Walden 22, winning a penalty. Ollie dummied to throw the ball wide then went on his own from 15 metres out, cutting through the defence to score out left; 10 - 0, and Cantabs supporters were starting to dream.
Dean came on for Jonnie Heaver this time, with Tom Stace moving to 2nd row. Matt Houlden nearly got away on the left, but the pass was adjudged forward. Back we came for the scrum, Cantabs caused Walden to handle in the scrum. Ollie tapped and passed out wide to Houlden, this time infield. Matt ran diagonally from our 10m line, outpacing everyone and seemed to score in the right hand corner. Sir consulted his colleague and the try was denied.
Cantabs were awarded a 5 metre scrum, Walden were at sixes and sevens as Cantabs drove them backwards. But Deano was spotted with a flailing arm tackle, and left the field again, this time for the statutory ten minutes. There was a long break as Deano's damage was sorted. Walden attempted to work their way out of their 22, two fumbles later and a hack from Cantabs, and there was Richard Knight just beating Tom Stace to the ball to touch down. This time Richard made no mistake with the conversion and Cantabs were 17 - 0 up.
Cantabs continued to tackle and ruck well, pushing Walden off the ball on numerous occasions. Francois went clear on the right only to be called back for an offside, but Walden were pinned in their 22. No further score though as the half finished.
Walden started the better in the second half and pushed Cantabs back. Matt Houlden was taken out in mid air, then tackled high and numbers were equal at fourteen a side for a few minutes. Dean was restored to the game three minutes into the half. The pressure continued for close to 5 minutes, but Walden never really looked like scoring. Finally, Walden got their chance with a penalty on the 22, and narrowed the score to 17 - 3.
Next score went to Cantabs. The ball went out on half way, Deano took a quick line out and Adam Fastnedge showed all the Walden defence a clean pair of heels, sprinting into the left hand corner for the bonus point try to the delight of the home supporters; 22 - 3. Richard Knight was breaking from the back of the scrum at every opportunity with gaps opening up in the Walden defence. When they did get the ball, Finn Morrison was up like lightning on the ball carrier. Cantabs were denying Walden any space whatsoever. Cantabs scrum was now very dominant and Cantabs were definitely getting on top again. A tiring Danny was replaced by Jonny Heaver Tom Stace going to No 8, Ben Tozer took over from Isaia up front.
Matt Houlden nearly got clear again on the left, as Cantabs started to move the ball through the backs more often. We seldom kicked, preferring to run the ball at all times. Walden did get into our 22, but Cantabs took advantage of yet more handling errors. Dean ran the ball out of his 22, Rich Ford picked up the loose ball, Ollie went through the middle again and caught Walden offside. Adam found touch, Walden knocked on at the lineout and from the scrum, Richard Knight, again found the gap, weaving his way through the defence to score at the posts. He converted his own try and the score moved to 29 - 3.
Ben Newman was on now, Tom Skelton taking a breather. Francois moved to fullback. Ollie made yet another break, and put Houlden away, but Walden tackled him into touch. Cantabs won the ball back at the lineout and Jon Perks went for the line, and was tackled a metre short. Cantabs moved the ball right, won a penalty and elected for a 5 metre scrum. Walden were penalised, but playing the advantage, Richard switched play to the left, through the backs out wide to the left where Matt Houlden scored
in the corner. A try he certainly deserved and one which the whole team celebrated with him; 34 - 3.
There was still time for one more try, our seventh, when Tom Stace powered over next to the posts. Richard converted this one to make the final score 41 - 3.
This win moves Cantabs above Ipswich in the divisional table. Richard Knight was deservedly given man of the match. Our defence was immaculate throughout, and this result at the end of 2018 gives us a wonderful boost going into the New Year and the second half of the season. Definitely the best performance of the season from Cantabs and a very strong squad developing which is going to worry all other teams in the division from now to the end of the season.