When the fixtures were first published, it was thought that this first league encounter would prove to be a tough match; the two clubs having finished 3rd and 4th in the league last season, having one win each. West Norfolk have suffered a few bad injuries pre season as a result of some tough "friendlies". Ground conditions were perfect for rugby, although the wind was pretty strong blowing straight down the pitch. Cantabs too, were missing a few regulars for the start of the season, the pack had an unusual look to it with Johnnie Heaver starting at 2nd row and Samisoni Kididromo at blindside. Euan Wilder lined up at flyhalf, with James McLaughran unavailable, and Casper took Sami's place at inside centre.
Cantabs faced up into the wind for the first half and immediately looked to take the game to the opposition. In the 2nd minute from a scrum deep inside West's 22, Cantabs won the ball against the head. Captain, Richard Ford picked up at the base of the scrum to drive over for the first score. Ali McCormick missed the conversion. However he was to make amends when following another period of pressure from the Cantabs pack, we were awarded a penalty, which Ali converted. Eight minutes into the game and Cantabs were 8 to 0.
Pressure from WN moved the play deep into the Cantabs half, but following a quick tap penalty by Dean James inside the Cantabs 22, and some great support play from the pack, the ball was moved out to Francois Eve on the right wing. Francois ran through the WN defence to just inside the opponents' 22, where he slipped the ball inside to Ali for a clear run under the posts. Ali duly converted to make the score 15 to 0 and all this after only eleven minutes!
Despite the absence of last season's 2nd row powerhouse of Warren Cowan and Chris Walliker, the pack was dominant in the scrum taking four scrums against the head in the first quarter. When the teams could achieve a straight throw, Richard Ford was also majestic in the lineouts; Cantabs winning almost everything. After 18 minutes Cantabs were awarded a penalty about 30m out, this was missed. WN at this point moved their talisman Aussie "Skippy" to his regular spot of scrum half and immediately started to make in roads. After 22 minutes later Skippy sent the WN right winger free on the right, and it was only a last ditch ankle tap tackle from Dan Searle which prevented a score. Five minutes late WN were awarded a penalty in front of the posts and duly converted it. The game rather degenerated at this point with neither team seemingly able to dominate. After 27 minutes Francois was replaced by Chikezie Knox-Macaulay following a hard hit to the shoulder. Half time arrived with the score 3-15 in favour of Cantabs.
The 2nd half gave Cantabs the wind advantage; despite this for the third quarter of the game WN pressed more urgently but were always thwarted by a Cantabs defence that was not really threatened, and assisted by a regular clearance kick deep into the WN half. Some great mauling from the Cantabs pack always gained ground throughout the game, but in the 2nd half our rucking was not to the standard of last season. As a result our backs rarely got clean ball and the game became somewhat scrappy. Outside Centre, Simon Domone suffered a bad knock to the knee after 65 minutes, and was replaced by Martin Wisbey, who moved into the front row, with Charlie Searle going to blindside and Sami restored to his more familiar role of Centre, alongside Casper. Although Ali was sin-binned at this point, Cantabs started to get on top again, with Sami leading the drives through the middle. However it was not until the 80th minute that following one of those drives from the Fijian, that Dan Searle completed a great pass out around the cover defence for left wing Tom to cross the line for our third try. Ali, restored to full back after his enforced rest, kicked the conversion from wide out, and Cantabs were 22-3 to the good.
Two minutes into extra time, a lapse of concentration, by the Cantabs defence saw the WN left winger dummy to go outside, and cut inside for a good try, which was converted by the WN full-back.
The referee blew for time - final score 22 to 10, and a great start to the season for Cantabs.