Cantabs returned to Sudbury in this league encounter, with something to prove following the previous week's defeat to the divisional leaders. Isaia Barbieri returned from injury at prop. Changes at half back as well with Jack Sykes moving back to scrum half and Josh Schmidt taking his place at 10.
Sudbury were also forced into a change at flyhalf, with their man not recovered from the previous week so their match winning inside centre moved across. Cantabs kicked off with the diagonal wind at their backs. All the early pressure was from Sudbury and as expected they soon were throwing out long passes but the windy wet conditions were not really conducive. However six or so phases from their mobile pack brought them into the Cantabs 22 to good effect, forcing the penalty. Up came their star kicker and against the wind he made no mistake. Two minutes into the game and the home side were 3 - 0 to the good.
Already Rich Ford had required extended treatment on his shoulder and Isaia was complaining that his calf had gone again; but both continued. Sudbury came straight back at us and a penalty gave them the platform of a five metre lineout out on the right. The catch was taken; the ball shipped out to the backs and moved smartly to the left. Our cover defence was too late, but it took a poor missed pass which skidded along the ground. Then it popped up into the arms of the left winger who went over for a try in the corner, virtually unopposed. Mr Dependable kicked beautifully for the extra points to make it 10 - 0 and it looked like we were going to have a long afternoon.
At that point Rich Ford and a couple of other Cantabs had a few words which must have done some good as from the restart we actually made ground and moved into the Sudbury half with some purpose. At that point also we won our first scrum against the head, and although our passing was poor our defence seemed to be dealing with the Sudbury threat better. A scrum to Cantabs saw their outside flanker penalised for breaking too early, something the referee had missed the previous week. We hit the touch well into the opponents 22, but our throw was adjudged crooked. Sudbury elected for the lineout, which showed our scrum had made its mark already. A huge kick out of defence from their man saw Sudbury putting Ali under pressure, he fumbled and we had to scramble the ball into touch in the corner. The lineout found its target and the Sudbury forwards commenced their softening up process, before the ball was shipped out wide to the right, where an overlap gave them an easy score to make it 15 - 0, with just twenty minutes gone. Their kicker pushed the ball wide of the far post; his first miss in eight against us.
From the restart Cantabs now suddenly started to work to their game plan and our half backs were kicking long for the corner. Josh it was who used the wind to good effect to hit a kick into the right hand corner which Sudbury fullback could only fumble into touch. The lineout went to plan, with a catch and drive, reminiscent of an identical play the previous week, with Rich Ford spinning away from the maul to drive for the line. This time he was halted but recycled the ball and Bevan Whyte went again making the score in the corner with two defenders hanging off him. Ali struck the conversion well but it missed to the left. Cantabs were at least on the scoreboard at 15 - 5 with 28 minutes gone.
Francois, who is having a great start to the season had an exceptional run down the left hand touch line skipping in and out of five tackles before being stopped. Sudbury worked the ball back and Cantabs were then caught offside and from 30m centrally, Sudbury went for goal. Surprisingly their man missed again and we breathed a sigh of relief. Cantabs scrum was now causing Sudbury some difficulty and a resultant penalty allowed Josh to kick for the corner again. Perksy had a great drive and Barry followed up with another, but the defence held firm and when we decided to ship the ball to the backs, our passing was again frantic; so the chance was lost. The referee could not believe our scrum was so dominant and penalised Isaia for apparently being too good for his opposite number. The penalty moved Sudbury straight back into our red area and it took a great catch and mark from Francois to halt the Suffolk mens' progress. Francois tapped and ran straight back at them, and was finally halted on our ten metre line. Simon Hallisey halted another Sudbury attack with a great run taking him 40m out of his own 22. That was it for the first half; Cantabs now making a game of it.
Mick rang the changes at half time with Owen Lewis replacing Finn on the right wing and Shane Rea replacing Isaia at prop, Perksy swapping sides. Cantabs were now defending well and Francois had dropped very deep to combat their flyhalf's huge kicks into the corner with the wind. Sudbury now appeared to be struggling to break us down and Cantabs were using Perks, Barry and Jonnie to blast holes up the middle. Jack's passing was less frantic and our backs were getting more of the ball with Drew battling away to break through.
Luke came on for Ian after ten minutes of the half and Jack found a good touch up to the Sudbury ten metre line. Bevan snaffled the throw and we moved forward through Ali, who broke clear for once. Sudbury were penalised at the breakdown and Ali was brought up to go for goal from 40m out against the wind. The kick dropped short, and they dropped out long straight back into our 22. Our lineout was now working well and Bevan and Rich had no little success. However, Perksy was yellow carded for not rolling away at the breakdown and Jonnie was forced to move to prop. It took a huge effort from our seven man scrum to hold Sudbury at the first scrum but on the next we managed to push them back and this alone seemed to galvanise the pack into greater effort. We kicked our way back into the Sudbury 22, and the home side were now a little ragged under pressure, being penalised on the edge of their 22 out wide on the right. Much to Mick's annoyance, Rich elected for Ali to kick for goal. The kick sailed wide and Sudbury were relieved to drop out from the 22. Josh caught the ball and kicked straight back into the right hand corner. The Sudbury fullback fumbled, appeared to knock on and the ball bounced into the path of Bevan who was clear on goal and about to win the chase for possession when he was dragged back. The referee awarded a penalty try, which Ali converted, to bring us to 15 - 12.
Eight minutes left on the clock and it was all Cantabs with the forwards relentlessly rucking the ball towards the Sudbury line, only for them to win the ball, and kick it deep. Time and again, we won the scrum; Shane, Ian and Perks ran at the Sudbury defence and laid the ball back for the next man. We got to within ten metres, then five, eventually the ball was moved to the right, Rich Ford knocked on in the tackle and it was game over.
A great second half from Cantabs, and in fact no score from Sudbury after the first ten minutes. They knew they had been in a game and Cantabs can be proud of the way they took the game to the Suffolk men. We now have two home games and with a 50% record in the league, can hopefully look forward to moving up the division over the coming weeks.
In our first seven games of the season we have now used 42 different players in the 1st XV. See you at Sedley Taylor Road next week, where the opponents are Beccles.