Cantabs faced bottom of the table, East London, at Sedley Taylor Road, with the hope of improving our points difference in the league table. The tactics were to move the ball out wide and keep the play away from the large East London forwards. Injured Jon Perks' place in the front row gave Mikey Goode his second start of the season for the 1st XV. Newcomer Luke Mumby was on the subs bench, along with Kiwi Ben Farmer, who had returned from his tour of Europe, and a heavily bandaged Warren Cowan.
It was noticeable that the pitch had been cut up badly by training along the Long Road touchline, and was generally pretty soft after the heavy rain in the week. Early pressure from Cantabs with left wing Graddage soon involved. Cantabs were held up over the line and got the put-in from 5m, but knocked on. East London cleared their line, Ali caught the kick out wide on the 22, ran it back and avoided all attempts to tackle him by scoring in the corner. His attempt hooked wide of the post, but after five minutes play, Cantabs were 5 - 0 up.
Despite the large East London pack, Cantabs were soon very much in control of the scrum. East London were then deemed to have deliberately knocked the ball away inside their own 22. The penalty gave rise to a lineout on 5m, Rich Ford caught the ball, set up the maul and Cantabs literally walked the ball over the line for Mikey Goode to dot the ball down. 10 - 0 after eight minutes.
Cantabs were guilty of trying to run the ball out of their own 22 rather than kick and handling errors seemed to be passing the ball straight back to their opponents. But at this stage the Cantabs scrum was irrepressible and the ball was soon back in the hands of the blue and white. 20 minutes into the game and the next try also came wide on the right. Ali feinted to go outside his marker, moved back inside and then passed to his right to give winger James Walton a straightforward score near the corner flag. Ali left the conversion to Adrian, but again the ball hooked wide. 15 - 0.
Cantabs were immediately back in the EL half, but wasted another great chance of a catch and drive from 5m when the ball was thrown in long and wide. EL held onto the scrum this time, their fly-half put a great kick down the touchline, but too long. James Walton rushed back to take a quick throw just inside his own half Ali moved the ball out wide to Irish James who put Paul away on the left. He ran the ball back from within our half, out pacing two defenders to touch down under the posts. Great score but no justice for their No 10. Adrian slotted the conversion and the score moved to 22 - 0 after 25 minutes.
30 minutes; the pack protected the ball thirty metres out, into unstoppable maul mode, and again Mikey Goode was the grateful recipient, pealing off the back of the maul to sprint unopposed over the line from 15m; again to the right of the posts. Adrian converted the try, so up to 29 - 0.
34 minutes; Sami broke the line with a devastating run to the left of centre, smashing his way past four defenders. At which point all the forwards seemed to be involved in some very slick inter-passing to put Jonnie Heaver through under the posts. 36 - 0.
Cantabs soon back on the attack, Isaia was held up over the line following a good drive by the pack. The scrum from 5m did its job, Rich Ford moving off the back when the movement forward was halted to touch down wide on the left. Again the kick was unsuccessful, but the whistle blew for half time with the score at 41 - 0. Probably our best all-round half of the season so far, with the forwards dominant in the loose and our back benefitting from plenty of ball.
During the break, Warren Cowan came on for Tom Conder, Luke Mumby for Jonnie Heaver and Ben Farmer for Ali McCormick. James Walton moved to full-back, so Ben took his accustomed place on the wing.
47 minutes gone and we managed to knock on when going close on the left. EL had the put-in on 5m, but Cantabs won the ball against the head, trundled the scrum forward and Rich Ford had the easiest of tasks to make his second try. Adrian narrowly failed with the kick but the score had moved to 46 - 0.
EL then lost their full-back with a twisted ankle following a heavy tackle. From the restart Cantabs then proceeded to lose a scrum against the head - unheard of this season! An aggrieved Dean James ran right around the scrum to harass their outside flanker, tackled and stripped the ball in the same movement and Cantabs were back in possession inside the EL half. From the next Cantabs scrum on the edge of the EL 22, out right, Rich Ford collected at the back and off-loaded the ball to a rampaging Warren Cowan. At which point my world went black as I was hit broadside by a sprinting Cantabs touch judge who completely wiped me out. When I got up, covered in good Cantabs mud, we had scored. I later found out that Luke had finished the job off to the right of the posts, following up, Warren's drive. Mr Munby's first try for the 1st XV, converted by our third kicker of the day, Irish James; 53 - 0 after 55 minutes.
EL were not giving up, to their credit, and the next score was theirs. Half way through the second half and the play had moved wide out to the left of our line, the EL forwards won the ruck and some very slick passing from their back line caught our defence napping and their left winger took full advantage of the over-lap to score in the corner. Not a day for kickers; 53 - 5.
Mikey Goode then took a break and the versatile Jonnie Heaver took over at prop. Dean took a tap penalty deep inside the EL 22, and Warren Cowan did what Warren does best; driving his body through the cover defence to score in the corner. Another try out wide on the right and another missed kick, but 58 - 5 after 68 minutes.
Paul Graddage, sprinting like a latter day Roger Summerfield, was the next to go close ending off another flowing move by touching down in the left hand corner. Only to be told his foot had gone into touch.
Final try of the match went to Rich Ford, who again collected the ball at the back of our scrum from Dean, and sprinted down the blindside to the left hand corner, ignoring the shout from Dean to return the favour. Andrew Sarek's photo shows him appearing to drop the ball before grounding, but our captain was delighted to make his hat-trick. Irish rounded off the scoring to make it 65 - 5 with minutes to go. At the finish, the Cantabs better fitness and strength was personified by Sami and Dean jointly crash tackling the EL right winger into touch. That was that, another great home win from Cantabs, who are now just four points off the head of the table, but in sixth place! The league title, it would seem, will go to the Club that can start to win consistently AWAY from home. It's within our grasp, if we really want it.
Sami was awesome at centre, Dan Searle continued to tackle like a demon and Tom, Chris and Warren at 2nd Row gave the scrum the stabilty and power missing at Wanstead last week.
Next week's match is at home in the RFU Senior Vase to Canvey Island - birthplace of ex-Cantabs hooker and captain Dave Vincent; now there's a name to remember.