Cantabs were against Old Brentwoods for the third time of asking. The previous league match gave the Essex men a last minute victory by a solitary point and another away tie in the Senior Vase had gone our way. Sami was back from his knee ligament damage and started at inside centre. Isaia on the other hand was back in Italy visiting a sick father, so the versatile Jonnie Heaver took over at prop.
Cantabs kicked off in perfect rugby conditions, no wind, even a bit of bright sunshine at times and a newly rolled pitch that lent itself to open running rugby. Ali McCormick was soon into running mode and our fullback swerved his way past several defenders before being shepherded into touch deep in the OB 22. Cantabs gained the throw and a superb catch by Rich Ford was followed by a great diving maul that saw the pack drive Bevan Whyte over the line to the right of the posts. Ali missed the conversion but with only two minutes on the clock it was 5 - 0.
From the restart, Dan Searle shouted for the ball soared high? Into the air and then made his way past several Essex men to set up Cantabs pack inside the opponents half. Some astute place kicking by Irish James and fierce tackling from our pack won back the ball deep in the OB 22, and the next flowing move from the backs with Ali on the rampage in support put Ben Farmer away on the left wing, only to see him tackled into touch by their fullback.
Further pressure followed after desperate clearing kick was caught by Ali on halfway; he ran straight at the defence, chipped the ball ahead and caught the ball inside the OB 22. While being tackled he managed to offload to Francois Eve who dived over the line to the right of the posts. A breathless Ali missed his second conversion with his chipped kick in an attempt to save the ball from the railway, but it was 10 - 0 after 10 minutes and Cantabs were really on their game.
Ben Farmer again went close when trying to finish off another lovely backs move on the left. But Cantabs were not to be denied, and it was Perksy who scored the next try with one of his trademark runs off a ruck straight through the OB cover defence, and with Sami on his shoulder to add a bit of ballast he made the line to the right of the posts. 14 minutes; Ali didn’t miss this time so the scoreboard ticked up to 17 - 0.
Two minutes later, on the next move we saw our backs put Sami away on the left. He ran at the fullback, side-stepped and put the ball down under the posts. Ali’s conversion was a formality to make it 24 - 0, and our bonus point secured in record time.
Cantabs were finding the OB pack a bit of a handful in the scrum, and that’s something I have not had to report this season. OB took one against the head and that seemed to gel Cantabs into even fiercer action. Sami put in two massive tackles in less than a minute, and Dan Searle was up on the opponents like a terrier every time they looked like putting a move together.
Following one of Sami’s tackles we gained the scrum from a spilled ball, Dean put Ali away and he found Francois on the right. The winger cut diagonally inside towards goal and almost scored but for a last gasp tackle close to goal. Francois tried to get his pass away the ball rebounded off their fullback and Dean gobbled up the spilled ball to go in under the posts. Ali converted to make it 31 - 0 after 30 minutes. At this juncture Sami retired from action with a recurrence of that knee ligament problem, bringing Josh into the fray, who took up his usual fly-half slot allowing Irish to move to Centre.
OB did have a chance to reduce the deficit with a penalty awarded just outside our 22, but elected to run the ball and found the Cantabs tacklers up to their task. Ben Farmer was on hand clear the danger with a great clearing kick, and Bevan spoilt the OB lineout, so our forwards took over. A couple of phases later Perksy was rampaging forward again, and released the ball as he was tackled to Dan Seale who dived over close to the posts. The pass was forward according to the Cantabs faithful, but the try stood. Ali converted to make the score 38 - 0.
Try no seven soon followed with Ben Farmer again on the end of another flowing backs move. He unselfishly passed inside to the supporting Irish James, who touched down to the left of the posts. Ali converted to move the score to 45 - 0 and the half time whistle followed to save OB from further punishment.
Two substitutions for Cantabs at half time; Skeggsy on for captain Rich Ford and Paul Graddage replaced Francois on the right wing. The changes did not seem to stop the flowing rugby from a rampant Cantabs team. The ball was moved inside then back out again on the edge of the OB 22, and Fraser Kelsall was the supporting forward who sprinted over the line from 20 metres to score his first ever try for the first team. Eight tries from eight different players, Ali converted, to make the score 52 - 0.
Next try went to Centre Drew as he took the pass and stepped back inside thirty metres out, and found himself clear for goal. Yet another Cantabs scorer and yet another conversion from our fullback to make it 59 - 0.
Dean was next in on the act when he took the ball from the base of a scrum on half way, looked one way then the other for a pass, spun on the spot and then weaved his way past four flailing tacklers to reach the 22. Irish was in support and the pass was timed to perfection for try number 10, again converted by Ali; 66 - 0.
OB were looking shell-shocked, just a point below us in the table but on the end of a hammering from a Cantabs team that seemed to be able to score at will. Drew was substituted to protect his back and ankle for the rest of the season and Francois came back on. A series of penalties brought us back into the OB 22, and the last of these saw their scrum half take a ten minute break. The Cantabs pressure was relentless, but the Essex men were not going to give up and battled gamely against the Cantabs tide.
Cantabs chose to take the scrum at the penalty and OB withstood the pressure well, but Dean moved the ball wide to the left and it was Ali on the end of the backs line who out paced the defence to score in the corner. He converted his own try with a great kick from out wide on the left to make the score 73 - 0.
From the restart OB started to press and made good ground. Our lads reckoned the referee was in the way, but from the touchline it appeared fine as their centre cut back inside to go in under the posts for a well-deserved consolation try, which they converted to make it 73 - 7.
Rich Ford could resist the game no longer and called Dan Searle off for a well earned rest. OB were restored to15 men but Francois was next to threaten the over-worked OB defence, with a great run down the left only to be felled by a high tackle. Irish kicked for the corner and we won the lineout and proceeded to maul the ball closer to the line. A series of five metre scrums followed as Dean was held up over the line with the referee playing advantage. OB were competing well in the scrum and denied us good ball with a wheel. Cantabs repeated the dose on them.
Dean was now rampant and from an OB scrum on their 22, the No 8 thought he had protected the ball for his scrum half, but Dean stuck out a leg to spoil the possession, gathered the bouncing ball and literally bullied his way over the line from 18 metres out. Ali converted and with five minutes to go it was
80 - 7.
Last play of the day was another classic. Rich Ford leapt high at the line out, caught the ball and fed Warren Cowan bursting through the line on a well rehearsed play. Warren went through the first tackler, handed off two more and passed to his scrum half that from 15 metres was just not going to be denied. Dean’s third try, which cost him two jugs of beer, but our Welsh wizard was pleased with his day’s work. Ali converted for the eleventh and final time to make the final score 87 - 7.
What a day for Cantabs. A great lunch followed by some sparkling rugby. Only blot on the day was Sami’s injury; we need him in cotton wool and back for the Cup Final he so richly deserves.
A fantastic response by the lads for that defeat at Brentwood before Christmas, and on this form we have nobody to fear in our remaining league games. Man of the match went to Dean, but the whole team competed as a team with some of the best rugby from Cantabs seen for many a year. Great running from our backs supported by a pack that tackled, rucked and mauled us into some great positions. Bring on Canvey Island and Dave Vincent next week!