Cantabs were at Sedley Taylor Road for the second week in a row for this crucial game against Ipswich YM, who had done us a favour two weeks ago by beating Wisbech. A hard physical game was expected from a large Ipswich pack. Dean James had his broken hand in a protective splint, and sat this one out, so Adrian Clague moved to scrum-half and James Walton took over at fly-half. Mikey Goode retained his place at hooker.
By the time the game kicked off, the rain had cleared and although the pitch was a little greasy; with little wind, the conditions were near perfect for rugby.
The first meaningful attack came from a Cantabs lineout on halfway, Warren gathered Richard Ford’s delivery and burst through on the blindside, handing off three defenders before passing to Paul Graddage in support. Paul was pushed into touch, but Rich stole the ball with a great catch, and YM were penalised for offside 25 metres out. Ali’s kick drifted wide to the left and YM breathed again.
From that point Cantabs dominated the game, and but for some fierce YM defence (some legal, some less so), would have scored earlier. But after 12 minutes Cantabs opened the scoring with another great lineout move on the left, deep in the YM 22. Charlie's throw was clutched by Rich at the front of the line this time, he passed back to Charlie who burst through the defence, slipped the ball back to Rich, and he was over for the try in the corner; 5 to 0.
YM had the next chance to score three minutes later, when Cantabs were penalised for not releasing. However the penalty kick from 35m died just short of the goal.
24 minutes, Cantabs won the ball cleanly from a scrum 15m out. Adrian found Ali coming through at speed on the blindside, and he raced through the defence to touch down in the right hand corner. Ali’s conversion kick was better but struck the upright; 10 to 0.
Cantabs went close again on the left, Drew got clear, but was adjudged to have knocked on when grounding. Ipswich pack, despite their size, was finding the Cantabs pack a real handful in the scrums. Their scrum half and No 8 were getting slaughtered by our back row when they did manage to hook the ball back from a retreating scrum. So when we knocked on 5m out on the left, they cannot have been relishing another scrum. But the YM scrum-half decided to have a chat with the referee, walked away from this, but could not resist having one more dig, and was yellow carded. Cantabs took the scrum as a penalty option, and promptly drove the YM pack back over their line, giving Rich Ford an easy second try. Ali missed the kick, but after half an hour the score was now 15 to 0.
Ben James then damaged his ankle and was carried off the field; Dan Searle replaced him at open-side. YM then resorted to a bit of fisticuffs, particularly their No 4. Then Sami was punched, retaliated, and was yellow carded. So, from being a man up we were suddenly a man light. No further score at half time.
Chris Walliker, back from his travels in China, cane on to replace Tom Conder for the second half. Our scrums were still dominant, Rich Ford was winning a great deal of ball in the line and in the loose we managed a lot of turnovers. But, YM were hanging on doggedly, never threatening our line, but defending well.
Sami came back on and shortly afterwards, had a great run through the middle, got the ball away to Paul, but a last ditch tackle saved the day for YM.
Francois Eve then replaced Drew for the last quarter, and was immediately in the action; narrowly failing to get around the defence three times on the left wing. His runs were really stretching the YM defence; clearly he is back in contention for our last few games.
Rich Ford then burst through, beat two men, and with only the full-back to beat and Paul on his right opted to go for glory and the hat-trick. He was tackled, or as he said later it was “jug avoidance”, as the chance went begging.
Then ten minutes from time, with Cantabs entrenched in the YM 22, Warren finally broke the deadlock with a typical Warren run from 15m, going through two tackles and gleefully touched down under the posts. This time Ali made no mistake; 22 to 0 and a bonus point for the fourth try. That was it really, Cantabs ran the clock down. YM went home a thoroughly beaten side. Cantabs were dominant in all aspects of the game. Our defence was fantastic, and frankly YM were never given a chance of a try through the entire match. Adrian's probing kicks opened up the YM defence time and time again, Ben and Sami were solid throughout, but the coach's award for Man of the Match went to James Walton for his link play at stand-off. The pack, as usual, were magnificent; no opposition pack has got close to us this season
So, we now have three games to go, having made 17 straight wins in the league. No game next week, then the big one on 31st March; away to Wisbech, where we can seal the Championship – a game not to be missed.
With a fortnight to recover, hopefully our injured players Dean James, Irish James, Ben James and Isaia Barbieri, will be available. Bevan Whyte, is also back in the country and raring to get involved.
Remaining fixtures: 31st March Wisbech (AWAY)
7th April Mersea (AWAY)
14th April W. Norfolk (HOME)
21st April (Cambs Cup) Saffron Walden (AWAY)