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Old Coopers capitalise on uncontested scrums

Cantabs were away to the other Upminster side in the league; Old Cooperians, whose seven match unbeaten run had lifted them to second in the table. The two Searle brothers, recovering from bad injuries, were on the bench. Mike Goode restored to hooker, Ian Watkins replacing the absent Jon Heaver and Simon Hallissey in for Francois Eve. It was clear from watching the teams warming up that it would be a case of keeping the game tight as Coopers appeared to have a set of well-drilled backs.

Cantabs kicked off with the wind at their backs. The first tackle of the day saw Simon receiving extended treatment. The early warning signs were confirmed when Coopers put the first decent attack in which released their left winger and it took a last ditch tackle from Bevan, inside our 22, to push him into touch. The line out was secured and Euan cleared under massive pressure from the Coopers flanker to find touch just outside the opposition 22. Coopers however switched the ball smartly back across their line and suddenly Harri on our left wing had two men running at him. The winger timed his pass back inside to perfection and the supporting man ran through unopposed to score under the posts. Easy conversion made it 7 - 0 with barely 10 minutes gone.

After the restart both Ali and Drew had good runs to give Cantabs some momentum. Again, Euan kicked long into the Coopers half and under pressure they could only find touch on their 10m line. Following the lineout, Cantabs scrum was penalised for shoving too early, as the Coopers prop took a step back. Coopers knocked on from a quick penalty and Cantabs scrum this time was up to the job and our backs worked the ball forward into the opposition 22, where Coopers were caught offside giving Ali a straightforward kick for goal to put us on the board at 7 - 3 after 18 minutes of play.

Next attack was from the Essex men with their left winger again roasting our defence and only denied a try by a flailing arm from Ali which did enough to distract him as he dropped the ball in his headlong dive over the line. A let off for Cantabs, but the danger was being spelt out that Cantabs were being stretched too easily by the speed of running of the Coopers backs. Again our lineout was up to the job and Euan cleared beautifully under huge pressure.

Rich Ford required treatment to a shoulder but resumed his position. Euan kicked long but perhaps too long as Coopers took the opportunity of a quick throw to run the ball back and it was only a forward pass which denied them another score as they crossed our 10m line. The writing was well and truly on the wall. Our lineouts and scrums were providing possession but the back play from Coopers, orchestrated by the lovely passes from their flyhalf, were pulling our defence all over the place.

Coopers had missed one kick but another opportunity 30m out to the right of the posts was accepted and the score moved to 10 - 3 after 32 minutes.

The restart kick from Jack was long, Coopers gathered shipped the ball wide and their runners took them out to the right, around our defence and under the posts. 17 - 3 and Cantabs captain started to get a little vociferous.

The restart was again kicked long from Jack, the ball was caught cleanly and shipped back, but fumbled, and Paul Graddage was on the bouncing ball to hack forward over the try line and was first to dive on the ball. Ali’s kick was pulled across the face of the goal, but at least we had stemmed the tide at

17 - 8.

Euan broke through and gained a penalty for a high tackle. Rich called up Ali to have a pot from the 10m line and the kick was low and long but straight through the middle to make it 17 - 11.

It was Ali that took the play back to Coopers with a typical weaving run, and drawing another penalty for a high tackle. This time he missed the kick, but at least Cantabs were back in the game as the whistle went for the half.

No changes from Cantabs at the start of the half and we started the half better, with a kick from Jack taking us into the Coopers 22. The lineout was won and although we knocked on, the scrum won the ball back and Coopers were penalised for breaking the binding. Ali made no mistake to bring the score back to 17 - 14.

The restart kick was gathered and Cantabs started to run it back but a fumble from Drew on the 22 line, was seized on by the Coopers backs who outsprinted us over the line just grounding before the dead-ball line. Straightforward conversion made the score 24 - 14 just five minutes into the half.

The next scrum on the Coopers 10m line, had their scrum half feeding crookedly and Cantabs pushed their pack at an alarming rate in attempt to win the ball. Free kick to Cantabs, but crucially one of the Coopers props too injured to continue. The scrums went uncontested, Coopers electing to lose another prop and replaced him with another runner, but electing to play on a man short. Cantabs responded by removing both Mikey and Isaia, but the game for Cantabs was effectively over; with our scum ruled ineffective.

The first scrum demonstrated the problem, Coopers took the ball out to the backs and scored in the corner, with Ali just preventing an easy kick but nowhere close for a tackle. Despite his attempt to make the kick difficult, the Coopers kicker was up to the job; 31 - 14.

Drew, ten metres out from our line, incurred the wrath of the referee with a few words on the quality of his refereeing, and basically evened up the numbers for the last quarter of an hour. Naturally, Coopers elected for a scrum (uncontested) and we offended somehow. Coopers ran the ball over for a try and the referee ran to the posts from the corner to make the kick straightforward and the score 38 - 14.

Despite the attempts by Shed and Perksy to drive into the Coopers defence; each time we knocked on the scrum allowed the Coopers now rampant backs to run at our slower forwards and break wide. Two further tries came for the two wingers and Cantabs were demolished at 48 - 14. Only half an hour earlier we were one kick away from tying up the game, but the uncontested scrums turned the game upside down and killed the contest.

Well done to Old Cooperians for playing to their strengths, Cantabs just could not live with the speed of their backs. This was our worst league defeat in five seasons and it will take a good week’s work from our coaches to recover from this defeat, before we take on local rivals Wisbech for the last game of 2013. The defeat leaves Cantabs in fourth place, but now well behind the two newly-promoted Essex sides Old Coopers and Campion.

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