For our first Eastern Counties fixture at Sedley Taylor Road, Ely Tigers were the opponents and, Ely having racked up 46 points at home the previous week, a tough encounter was expected for this Cambridgeshire local derby. The match was also designated as Round 1 of the Cambs Cup, adding a little extra spice to the occasion. Jeff Railton's BBQ had finally brought out the sun, and a decent following, when the match kicked off in near perfect conditions.
Cantabs front five were restored to the format of last season with the return of Warren Cowan and Chris Walliker. There were changes at centre, Sami Kididromo and James Thomas were both missing; Sami had played for the Army Rugby League team against the Navy on the previous evening. Replacements were James McLaughran and ex-Cambridge colt, Paul Graddage. The Cantabs pack was soon dominating the Ely pack in the loose.
After only five minutes, following some great rucking from the pack deep in Ely territory, John Perks burst through the Ely defence to score. Ali McCormick converted the try to make the score 7 - 0 after only five minutes. Ely were competing well with their second row particularly strongly and it was only a great saving tackle from full-back Ali inside the Cantabs 22 that prevented the opponents' left winger from scoring. However, only a minute later with Ely just managing to hold onto their own scrum, the same Ely player finished off another slick Ely move by touching down in the corner. The conversion was missed; 7 - 5 to Cantabs.
Three minutes later Dean James broke clear on the left and unselfishly moved the ball out wide, where Ali touched down in the corner only to have been adjudged to have had a foot in touch. Cantabs continued to dominate in the scrums winning four out of five and only one of those on our put-in! The line-outs were a different matter, too many chances of good ball were lost, with throws going over Richard Ford or not straight.
After 26 minutes, flanker Dan Searle had to leave the field with a leg injury, and he was replaced by Ben James. Cantabs continued to attack, but Ely were still dangerous on the break. After 40 minutes Francois Eve went on one of his runs down the right touchline only to be bundled into touch 10m out. Then in added time, fly-half Euan Wilder missed an attempted drop after concerted Cantabs pressure, and to Martin Gooch's consternation managed to lose a brand new ball on the railway line! However from the resultant Ely dropout deep over the half way line, Ali ran the ball back, moved it wide to Francois who went through three tackles to touch down in the corner; 12 - 5 to Cantabs at half time
Ely made a couple of substitutions for the second half at prop and flanker, but the changes did not help their cause as the Cantabs pack were by now dominant. Five minutes into the half, rather emphasising their superiority, a rolling maul moved from 35m out all the way to the Ely line, where Chris Walliker touched down to the delight of our supporters.
The try was converted by Ali; 19 - 5 to Cantabs.
Following a couple of bad knocks, after 55 minutes, hooker Nick Parham left the field , making way for Italian Isaia Barbieri in the front row, with Charlie Searle moving to hooker. The change did not affect the Cantabs scrum's superiority as only three minutes later, Dean moved the ball left for winger Tom Wakerely to dive over in the corner for the fourth try of the match (and a bonus point); 24 - 5 to Cantabs.
Cantabs crossed the line two further times, through Richard and Euan, only to have each touchdown disallowed for one reason or another. With the Ely scrum at sixes and sevens, Dean inexplicably fed the ball in crookedly from one of the resultant five metre scrums. Apart from this lapse he had another outstanding game at scrum half, moving the ball along the line quickly and accurately. James and Paul at Centre constantly knocked holes in the Ely defence, and Euan started to link very well with both of them - the extra backs coaching seams to be reaping dividends.
The pressure was all coming from Cantabs; although Ali missed a kickable penalty from 30m. The resultant Ely dropout saw Warren make a great catch, and the onslaught just continued. Ely spent the last half hour pinned in their half, and mostly in their own 22. Tom gave way to Simon Hallisey on the right wing, and it was Simon that went close again after another good move.
When the referee finally blew to save Ely from further punishment, the final score remained at 24 - 5 and Cantabs moved to second in the table, on equal points with Southwold. Ely were totally outplayed after the first quarter, and were somewhat fortunate to restrict the try count against to four.
Man of the match was given to Ali, but centre Paul ran him close. The forwards were all magnificent, and on this form Cantabs can look forward to another good season.
1. Charlie Searle
2. Nick Parnham
3. Jon Perks
4. Chris Walliker
5. Warren Cowan
6. Jonny Heaver
7. Dan Searle
8. Rich Ford (Capt)
9. Dean James
10. Euan Willder
11. Francois Eve
12. James McLaughran
13. Paul Graddage
14. Tom Wakerely
15. Ali McCormick
16. Isaia Barbieri
17. Ben James
18. Simon Hallisey