Cantabs visited Norwich Crusaders. An accident on the A11, delayed Fergus Wilson and Tim Kirkconel, with both of them arriving as the warm-up finished. So, Ben Tozer started at 2nd row and Rowan Haines was on the wing. Harry Hill was making his 1st XV debut.
Cantabs kicked off into a stiff breeze, but the pitch was ideal for running rugby. Francois Eve was the first to threaten, but the move broke down and at the first scrum it was clear that the Crusaders pack would not be giving way. It was Crusaders who had the first chance to worry the scorer, but the penalty from just 30m out was hit to the corner, where Cantabs took their lineout for the second time out of two. The wind was now blowing mostly across the pitch, making passing more of a lottery. But the first try followed, and it went to Cantabs through captain Danny Richards. He broke clear from the back of a scrum on our 10m line, and handed off four attempted tackles before crossing the line and grounding the ball at the posts; 0 - 7 after ten minutes play.
The Crusaders fly-half then attempted to run through Perksy, a case of a a moving object striking a truly immovable object. Unfortunately the Crusader took no further part in this particular crusade. Perksy seemed to be intact, and their fullback moved up to takeover at stand-off. Cantabs did make their way up into their opponents 22 with a hack down the left touchline and forced the error. The first scrum saw us move to within five metres, but with the line beckoning, Crusaders held firm and the threat was over. The lineouts were all going to Cantabs with Rich Ford and Ed Foster stealing all the Crusaders ball. Tom Bailey made a powerful run, fully 30m to the try line, Isaia, had a go and then Tom tried again, but again the defence was up to the task from the Norfolk men. We were held up over the line and again the Crusaders scrum was up to the task. Adam Fastnedge and Francois then raced each other to Adam's kick ahead, but the ball went dead. And so the pressure continued from Cantabs but the second try would not come.
Half an hour passed, again Isaia went close with a good surge into the 22. The home side then lost their No 8 for ten minutes for slapping a pass down. Cantabs went for the scrum from the resulting penalty, taken on the edge of the 22. Jos spun the ball wide and Dan raced through a gap to score at the posts. Again no problem for Finlay Laing; 0 - 14 to Cantabs. Still the Crusaders lineout was being snaffled by Ed and Richard, and all the pressure was coming from Cantabs. Ed Foster then made a clean break, timed his pass outside to perfection, and Drew Tilley scored try number three; 0 - 19.
Tom Bailey surged out of his own half, Ollie then took over as Tom found him with a pass off the deck. Ollie saw a gap, to continue the move and passed out to Adam. Adam's pass was on the button to a racing Francois, and it was try number four, the bonus point secured, as Francois grounded the ball to the right of the posts; 0 - 24.
Crusaders were the next to score, with a little fortune going their way for once. The ball was kicked down towards the right wing, the bounce fooled our defence, a Crusader appeared to knock on, but this went unseen and their winger scored. The conversion failed, but we turned round at half time with the score at 5 - 24.
From the start of the half, Rowan went close on the left wing, but was pushed into touch ten metres out. Again Cantabs were thwarted by resolute Crusaders defence, The ball was shifted to the right, then back to the left, and the gap had been created for Ben Tozer to take full advantage; 5 - 31 with Finlay's drop kick conversion. Finn Morrison then went close with a storming run out of his own half, but his pass to Jos was adjudged forward and the chance had gone.
Tim Kirkconel then replaced Isaia at prop, and Fergus moved onto the wing to replace Rowan. Traffic was now all one way, Danny went close, and at the next breakdown the Crusaders 2nd row was shown a yellow card. Their defence was now becoming stretched and even more desperate. However, Cantabs were prevented from scoring until their second row was back on. Then suddenly the floodgates opened as Cantabs were tapping every penalty and running the ball at Crusaders at every opportunity. Finlay ended a lovely passing move for try six and the seventh came from yet another break out of defence, from Finn Morrison. Then Jos Crush finally got his name on the scoresheet with a well-deserved try number eight to bring the score to 5 - 52; Finlay having converted all three.
Adam Fastnedge made it 57 - 5 with a try in the right hand corner and the last try of the game came from a lightning break from Captain Dan, who slipped past three defenders, his run taking him from his own half to finally score at the posts; 5 - 64 the final score. That also made Dan his hat trick of tries, for the third game in succession; expensive game this try scoring. My man of the match goes to Ed Foster for his lineout work and his efforts all around the pitch; making a general nuisance of himself to the guys in yellow and green, who to their credit never gave up.
Cantabs have now scored 705 points from their 13 league games and conceded just 118. With West Norfolk not playing, Cantabs are now back within one point of them at the top. Next week we are away to Beccles with a rearranged match and a win will put us clear of Wests, who are not playing.
1 Isaia Barbieri, 2 Tom Bailey, 3 Jon Perks, 4 Ed Foster, 5 Richard Ford,
6 Tim Kirkconel, 7 Finn Morrison, 8 Danny Richards (capt), 9 Ollie Townsend, 10 Jos Crush,
11 Fergus Wilson, 12 Adam Fastnedge, 13 Andrew Tilley, 14 Francois Eve, 15 Finlay Laing,
16 Ben Tozer, 17 Harry Hill, 18 Rowan Haines.