The long journey to Harwich was our second trip to the seaside in three weeks, but this time another layer of clothing was required. Cantabs had half a dozen enforced changes, so a tough match was expected against unbeaten opponents. James McLaughran and James Setchell were back at centre, Barry Brown (2nd row) and Adrian Clague (scrum half) were making their debuts. Charlie Searle was back in the front row and Danny James took over at hooker. Harwich asked us to kick off into a very stiff breeze and very much uphill. Cantabs were soon defending hard, but won a scrum against the head and stole a couple of line-outs. But after only seven minutes disaster struck, Adrian, ran into trouble at the back of a scrum, just inside our half, tried to get a hurried pass away, only to find it intercepted, for a try under the posts, duly converted. 7 - 0 to Harwich.
10 minutes: Cantabs penalised for a high tackle, 35m out and central; 10 - 0.
For a period Cantabs were definitely on the back foot with Harwich pressing hard and our coaches urging the defence to hold firm. However, from the second quarter, it was Cantabs that had blasted there way into the Harwich 22 and gained a series of scrums only 10m from the Harwich line, with home side defending strongly and certainly fearful of our scrum. Cantabs probably won six scrums in succession, and from the last 15m out, Euan Wilder collected an awkward pass, ran blindside, evaded the defence to touch down wide on the right. Ali McCormick failed with the conversion; 10 - 5, and Cantabs were back in the match, with 31 minutes gone.
Some great driving from our front five and centres, got us back in the Harwich 22, and there we stayed through the remainder of the half, until a huge clearance from their fullback was spilled on the edge of our 22. Harwich won the resultant scrum and Cantabs were penalised 15m out in front of goal; 13 - 5 to Harwich at half time.
The second half followed a similar pattern with Cantabs camped in the Harwich half almost permanently, but this time the wind and the slope were to our advantage and Harwich found clearing kicks more challenging. After 50 minutes Cantabs won a penalty only 15m out which Ali successfully converted; 13 - 8.
We then had a series of five metre scrums and somehow lost three of them against the head, but Harwich were unable to get their kicks away and kept touching down in goal. Finally, they managed to clear their line with a great run from their second row, who blasted his way clear through to the halfway line, where he ran into Francois Eve. Francois, tackled him, stripped the ball and ran past the Harwich defence in his usual manner, but was held up over the line. And so the series of five metre scrums to Cantabs continued, with Harwich defending furiously. From one such attack, and with 65minutes gone, flanker Ben James (yes another James), was denied a score by the referee and after extended treatment was helped off the field suffering concussion.
Two minutes later, Cantabs won a penalty inside the opponents' 22; the kick was successfully slotted by Ali, 13 - 11.
70 minutes: yet another penalty to Cantabs 20m out and again a successful outcome for Ali; 13 - 14. Cantabs take the lead for the first time.
Now Harwich finally had to get out of their own half and it was their fly half making a series of strong runs at our defence, who somehow held him at bay.
78 minutes: With Harwich now desperate for a try, and throwing the ball around in an effort to take the match, James McLaughran intercepted a pass on the halfway line and ran in to the right hand corner, for our second try; 13 - 19.
For the final five minutes Harwich fought hard to get through our defence, but the team defended bravely, scrimmaging and kicking their way to a great away win.
Special praise goes to Kiwi Adrian who stood in at scrum half, not his normal position. His performance won him man of the match. Danny James also merits praise for lasting the game and getting through what must have been a record number of scrums. Centres, James and James, took a huge amount of hits, as did the entire pack; with the Cantabs spirit showing right through the team. Five games in and we are still unbeaten and top of the league!