Cantabs opened up their Junior Vase campaign in Round 4, having had two Essex League clubs "cry off" in the earlier rounds - our reputation is obviously growing. The match was our third trip to the seaside - this time to Southwold and a tougher match was expected from the side that ruined our promotion chances last season. The Cantabs starting XV was without Chris Walliker, who sustained a sprained ankle last week. However, we welcomed back captain Richard Ford after a two month absence, our first choice half-back pairing of Dean and Adrian, and prop Isaia also returned. It was also good to see Francois back on the bench after a long absence due to work commitments. The full squad was as follows:
1. Isaia Barbieri
2. Charlie Searle
3. Jon Perks
4. Jonny Heaver
5. Warren Cowan
6. Ben James
7. Dan Searle
8. Richard Ford (capt)
9. Dean James
10. Adrian Clague
11. Paul Graddage
12. James Walton
13. James McLaughran
14. Euan Wilder
15. Ali McCormick
16. Mikey Goode
17. Ian Watkins
18. Francois Eve
After a wet morning, the game kicked off in bright conditions, but the SW crosswind was so severe that long passes were out of the question; short passes and close support play were the name of the game. Southwold seemed to have a pretty large set of forwards, but from the outset it was Cantabs that appeared to have the more mobile pack. A few hardy soles from Cantabs appeared on the line; Barty and Andy Walker among them, but not a day for fancy rugby.
Less than three minutes into the game, James Walton made good ground in the centre, the ball was moved right and Paul Graddage dived over for the first score out wide; 0 to 5, and Cantabs were up and running.
Conditions were leading to a lot of handling errors, but Euan showed his pace early on with a great run on the left. Early scrums went to Cantabs and our forwards looking far more aggressive and fit than their opposite numbers. Dean was relishing the chance to show his aggression, keeping the ball in hand, when passing was too difficult in the gale force wind, and time after time he and Adrian took on the Southwold defenders.
Then Cantabs worked the ball into the red area and it was Adrian who made the next break, just falling short, but from the recycled ball our new Italian Doctor, took the defence and the ball across the line and grounded the ball for a good score. Ali got the extra points with a straightforward kick; 0 to 12 after 24 minutes.
A penalty to each side followed and after 35 minutes we were 3 to 15 ahead. Some fantastic inter-passing from Cantabs, moving the ball back to the Southwold line and the home side were penalised ten metres out. Ali made the kick; 3 to 18. Paul Graddage was looking very dangerous on the right wing, with two very good runs skipping round the cover defence. The second time he chipped the ball forward but just failed to ground the ball before it went dead. No further score before half time.
Some powerful scrummaging from Cantabs followed shortly after the restart, then Dan Searle burst through the Southwold line, racing 35 metres only to be hauled down just short of the try line. Our forwards were close on his heels and recycled the ball quickly for Ben James to touch down in the right hand corner. The wind was so strong that Ali failed to make the distance from the 22; the score now 3 to 23.
Southwold were pinned back in their own half for long periods. The home side were awarded a scrum on their five metre line, following a crooked lineout. Cantabs promptly won the scrum against the head, and then had two attempts at a pushover try. The first led to Isaia being held up over the line; the second one Jonny Heaver crossed the line, but was adjudged to have knocked on. Southwold managed to win their scrum with a great heel, but the fullback's clearing kick was charged down! Dan Searle was first out of the blocks onto the loose ball, sprinted forward low to the ground (naturally) and took a well deserved try, again wide on the right, and Ali again could not make the distance; 3 to 28.
At this point with 15 minutes to go, Cantabs brought Ian Watlkins, Mikey Goode and Mr Eve into play. Rich Ford was saved for another day, Isaia went off to have his nose patched, and Euan gave way to Francois.
Final try went to Paul Graddage who roasted the defence for the fourth time in the game, touching down in the right hand corner. Ali was accurate again with his kick, but yet again the wind thwarted his attempt. Final score 3 to 33, and Cantabs marched into the 5th round of the vase for the second year running.
That's now 17 games played this season and 17 wins!
I thought Dan Searle and Paul Graddage had excellent games. Our coach gave man of the match to Warren for his tireless work in the loose, disrupting the Southwold forwards. Cantabs worked like Trojans, to a man; Southwold did not get close to our try line and it was a comprehensive victory. We now await the draw to find out our opponents in the next round, to be played on 11th February.
Next week’s game is a league match at home to third place Harwich, who are enjoying an exceptional season.