Cantabs started off their 2012 campaign, with a match against Yarmouth-based Broadlands. Top versus bottom and a nice gentle start to the New Year, a chance to brush away the cobwebs and improve our points difference; or so we thought. But how wrong we were! The team picked was the same one that had beaten Ely well in our last match. However, with Louis Mann deciding to emigrate to Italy, and Paul Graddage suffering a hand injury; Dan Searle moved back into outside flanker, and James Walton took over at left wing. Captain, Richard Ford, was on the line but unfortunately missed the match against his old club, because of a continuing groin problem; Dan therefore deputised.
Broadlands kicked off in near as perfect conditions as one could hope for in January, and a well-oiled crowd, including a strong contingent of Broadlands members, lining the touchline. But after only two minutes it was Broadlands who had the first chance to score with a penalty awarded some 35 metres out. The kick failed and from our drop-out Broadlands gained possession, but Warren tied up the man and ball and we went on to win our first scrum. This set the pattern of forward play throughout the match. Cantabs were dominant in the loose, their forwards all over the Broadlands pack, who struggled to move the ball to the backs. In the scrum, it was again Cantabs seemingly dominating, whichever side had the put-in. However for the first ten minutes, the game was in the Cantabs half, as a belligerent Broadlands team consistently denied the Cantabs efforts to move the ball to any positive effect.
Some great driving from Jon Perks and Charlie Searle, eventually moved the play well into the Broadlands half, and the resultant pressure finally told with a penalty awarded to Cantabs on 5 metres. Scrumhalf Dean then decided enough was enough and as only Dean can, bullied his way through the cover defence to touch down just right of the posts. Ali completed the scoring, with a well taken conversion, and finally after 15 minutes Cantabs were up and running; 7 to 0.
Ben Farmer then suffered a hamstring pull and was replaced by Andrew Tilley on the right wing. But despite some signs that our backs were starting to play it was Broadlands who scored next. Some good play from their fly-half, a couple of quick passes, and suddenly their diminutive left winger, out-paced our defence and dived over in the corner. The Broadlands full-back, struck a beautiful kick from way out on the touchline and it was all square again after 23 minutes.
The Broadlands fly-half, showing his class again kicked another monster penalty to find touch on our 22. Broadlands contrived to give us a scrum and from that position, our backs moved the ball at speed and worked the ball to the opposing 22, where we were awarded another scrum. This was snapped back with ease, Dean made 10 meters and slipped the ball inside to his supporting fly-half, Irish James, who touched down under the posts with nobody close. A great move, well rehearsed and beautifully accomplished. Ali did the honours, 14 to 7.
Then only two minutes later, following yet another scrum, won on our own 22, Dean to Sami who made a huge hole in the cover defence, ran 30 metres before passing to Ali in support, and it was Sami on hand to take the return pass to score under the posts again. Fantastic running, support and handling, and the Cantabs faithful breathing more easily; 21 to 7 and 30 minutes into the game. No further score in the first half, and Cantabs perhaps surprised at the resilience and good play from our Norfolk opponents.
45 minutes gone, and the Cantabs forwards are all over their opposite numbers to prevent Broadlands putting together any cohesive play and finally Charlie won the ball well in the loose, but Cantabs knock on only ten metres out. Broadlands then lost their umpteenth scrum, the ball was moved sharply through the backs, and Sami was on hand to blast his way over the line. The conversion was not successful; score now 26 to 7. Fourth try to Cantabs and a bonus point gained.
Broadlands scored next with a penalty from the 22, to make the score 26 to 10, and Jonny Heaver made way for Chris Walliker, who moved into the 2nd row releasing Bevan to play at No 8.
55 minutes, from a scrum 15 metres from the Broadlands line, Dean passes to Adrian , who swerves around the defence to score at ease; 31 to 10.
67 minutes a great run from Dan Searle who scythed through the Broadlands cover, and set up the ball for the ruck, and Dean moved the ball right this time to Ali in the line, who made good ground before passing out wide to Andre Tilley for a try on his debut in the corner. 36 to 10 to Cantabs.
70 minutes gone and another penalty well struck by the Broadlands full-back, completed the scoring for the day at 36 to 13.
Broadlands actually finished off the match looking strong and ran the next couple of penalties, rather than kick, but could not breach the Cantabs defence. At the final whistle the score remained 36 to 13. However controversy followed as the referee had somehow recorded the score as 36 to 16. A clubhouse debate followed and in accord with the spirit shown by both sides the issue was decided by a “boat race” between the two teams, which Broadlands won (mainly as our chief pint guzzler, Charlie went home early); the score was therefore recorded as 36 to 16.
After the game it was generally thought that Broadlands have improved greatly, and should surprise a few teams in the second half of the season. Their after-match singing (and drinking) was to be admired. Our coaches were not best pleased with the team’s play, (nor their drinking), but a good time was had by all.
For me the pick of the bunch were Bevan for his lineout and general play around the park, Dan Searle for some great incisive breaks, and the pack for winning virtually every scrum.
There were two exceptional tries scored by our backs and the promise of more to come over the next few months. The dream lives on, we are still unbeaten and still heading the division. Bring on the next game in a memorable season.