Cantabs made the long-awaited trip to North Cambridgeshire for this top of the table clash; first versus second and Cantabs unbeaten record on the line once more. A win would give us the Championship, and for Wisbech in their last league match of the season, a win would leave them an outside chance of destroying our title dreams. Bevan Whyte was back in the pack at blindside; adding more options in the lineout. With Isaia and Mikey both injured, Jonnie Heaver took over at prop. Dean James and Adrian Clague resumed their halfback partnership.
Cantabs kicked off into the wind; the pitch was dry and bumpy, and both sides had very good support. Cambridge Society did the match proud by providing three officials, equipped with radios.
In early exchanges, it was Cantabs pack dominating, particularly in the scrums. But the game was somewhat scrappy, with the fierce tackling leading to spilt ball from both sides. The first decent attack came from Cantabs, with Francois making a good run down the left, but he was just tackled short of the line. Ali then went on one of his trademark gliding runs, but again the Wisbech full-back was up to the task, halting him deep into the Wisbech 22.
Cantabs were now dominating the scrum, and pushing Wisbech off their ball at will. In the lineout, Richard and Bevan were dominant, and ringing the changes on our ball; and causing Wisbech trouble on their throw. Wisbech fly-half on the other hand was a handful throughout the game, with his little runs at our defence. Through the middle neither side had a lot of success, as the cover tackling from both sides was very competitive.
First scoring chance went to Cantabs with a penalty from 30m out, but Ali’s kick faded off to the right of the posts. Wisbech then had one of their better spells and their pressure told with Cantabs penalised 15m out. The chance was taken and 25 minutes into the game the home side were 3 to 0.
Only a few minutes later, Ali’s clearing kick against the wind went nowhere but upwards, and at that point the world stopped somehow, with the ball bouncing on our 10m line. Warren Cowan was first to react positively, raced through the Wisbech forwards, and was suddenly running clear. Warren was pushed left but none of the Wisbech backs got close as he gleefully touched down – a try from nothing. Ali missed the conversion but it was now 3 to 5, and we were on the board after half an hour.
Warren was on the wrong end of a Wisbech punch and received a bad cut over the eye. However, the Cantabs pack continued to dominate. One particular rolling maul moved the ball 30m but to no avail. The half finished with no further score.
Warren continued to be patched up as Wisbech were ready to kick-off the second half, so Tom Conder came on as a blood replacement. 5 minutes into the half we had a chance to increase the lead with a penalty from 25 metres; but Ali’s kick faded away to the left this time. Wisbech changed their prop, who left the field somewhat indignantly. Warren was restored to the fray, and Cantabs continued to push with Perks and Sami battering their way at and through the Wisbech lines time and time again. Francois then received the ball on the left wing, skipped past two defenders but could not evade the last Wisbech defender, being tackled 10m from the line.
Following a poor penalty kick to touch which went dead, from the 22m drop out Wisbech then had their first real chance of a try. The ball was suddenly in our half and the Wisbech left winger evaded Paul’s tackle, and raced over the try line, but had put a foot in touch. A let of for Cantabs, but Wisbech continued to press hard. Wisbech backs moved the ball left once more, and a long pass was floated out to the left winger on the Cantabs 22, The ball was plucked out of the air by a soaring Paul Graddage, who raced the length of the field to touch down under the posts. Ali converted, and the score was 3 to 12.
Adrian was now using the wind to our advantage, with some great kicking over the Fenmens’ defence into the corners. It was Adrian who worked his magic for the next score. He chipped over the Wisbech defence from their 22, and darted through to collect the ball and run in under the posts. Easy kick for Ali, and with 20 minutes to go Cantabs were well on top at 3 to 19.
Jonnie Heaver gave way for Denman in the front row, and Drew entered the game at centre for Ben Farmer. Our lineout was going well, our scrums were still dominant, and Paul almost made it a second try with another brilliant run on the right.
With 10 minutes to go Chris Walliker was replaced by Tom Conder. Paul then ran the ball out of defence, beating four men and moved well into the Wisbech 22 before pushing a grubber kick out to the left where Bevan just failed to gather for the try.
Wisbech then had a purple patch in the last five minutes, putting our defence under huge pressure, which finally told when their right winger touched down in the corner, making the score 8 to 19. The Wisbech faithful then came alive and with Cantabs, perhaps having taken the foot of the gas, finally got through once more on the right, touching down again under the posts. This time the conversion was a formality but the referee blew for time immediately. Final score Wisbech 15, Cantabs 19, and it was the men in blue and white who were celebrating.
The final score flattered Wisbech somewhat; Cantabs had really dominated for 80% of the game. Remember, this was Wisbech’s first home defeat of the season, Cantabs had achieved what they had set out to do; the Championship was ours!
Wisbech dangerous centres were largely snuffed out by our tackling throughout the game. The whole team played their hearts out and silenced a large Wisbech crowd for most of the afternoon. Man of the match went to Paul for his great running. Two more league games to go and our next target is to remain unbeaten for the season; next week we are away to Mersea Island, then back to Sedley Taylor Road for the last game against West Norfolk on the 14th April, when it is hoped you will join with me to celebrate a fantastic league season. Cantabs are going back into the London League for the first time in nearly 20 years.