This weekend marked the last game of the first half of the season for Cantabs and the players turned up on Saturday morning feeling ambitious - fuelled by the expecations of the coaches and supporters. We left the first team at the club to do their job over Wisbech and made the short journey over to Newmarket.
Aware that Newmarket Development had got to this point in the season without gaining a win, my pre-game message to the team was clear - we are here to out-class and embarrass our opposition. I think the instructions sunk in, because the intensity as we kicked off uphill and into the wind was evident. A couple of forward crashes, the ball spun out wide and we were already under the posts! Great start to the game and a try to Chik. The kick was right in front of the posts and impossible to miss, yet somehow Josh managed...
Not too long later and Cantabs are on the attack again. We started moving the ball about in the way that I have pleading the team to do for months and this time infamous winger Matt Shepherd soars over the line in the corner, great try. This time it's an impossible conversion from the sideline into a nasty headwind and the aussie slots it?!
The real depth of the Cantabs squad was on show this week, and I was very pleased to have Jonny Heaver playing for me for the first time this year, hoping to rejoin the first team following a week off. Our third try of the game was created by Jonny's face, which he managed to put in the way of the ball as it left the boot of the Newmarket fly half. Following the charge down with fast feet, our no. 1 beat the defence to ground the ball after 15 minutes the score was 17-0.
Cantabs quietened for a little while and Newmarket found themselves with the ball. Our defence in open play held up, but after a few phases we conceded a penalty which the Newmarket 10 stuck beautifully into touch on our 5 metre line. Their 5 man line out was perfectly executed and caught us by surprise - a trundle through our pack and Newmarket were on the scoreboard. Nothing to drop our heads over, we make sure that it does not happen again.
There was some rugby on show from Cantabs the likes of which I have yet seen this season, there's no other way to describe it...it was sexy. Next try comes to Alex Swart-Wilson who accelerates and dances his way through a number of black and green shirts for another well deserved five points. Last play of the half and the ball must have found its way through 5 sets of hands before I found myself charging through the opposition 22 looking for a try. I see a weedy fullback between me and the line and initially think about how hard I can go through him, but then I spot Shepherd in support on my right hand side and do the most unselfish thing ever. I pop the ball into Matt's hands and he scores in the corner. However, as Josh comes over to take the kick the ref finally catches up with play and decides that in fact Matt had knocked the ball on before he grounded it. If we weren't on such a roll it might not have been so hilarious but we take the halftime break with a solid 22-5 lead and a plan to take advantage of the wind and slope to turn the screw in the second half.
Half time changes - bring on Tom heaver on the wing, Will Parry for his first Cantabs game on the flank and Keith in the centre. Again, Newmarket find themselves keeping hold of ball and challenging our defence. Another 5 metre, 5 man line out but this time Cantabs are prepared and we will not let them over. We regain the ball and make sure we keep it in the opposition half, doing our best to convert our posession into points. A penalty on the 22 and I take a quick tap, run like a hero through the scattered Newmarket defence and smash over the line for my 6th try of the season so far (just saying).
One of the strangest things I've encountered on a pitch occurred after a kick was caught by a Newmarket player who had Harri waiting for him. I'm not sure whether he was taken out in the air or not, but Newmarket certainly thought so and handbags followed. The ref decided that the best course of action was to call both captains in and inform us that he wanted us to send our own players off, so I was left with no choice but to red card Harri.
Further changes see Robbo come on in the centre, Tucker making his debut at scrum half and Henry joining the back row. We continue to perform and the next try comes from good hands sending the ball out wide to Jonny who puts in a pop which is collected by Robbo who comes charging in from depth with a momentum that at this stage in the game the opposition have neither the head or heart to deal with. With a few minutes to go, Cantabs are knocking at the Newmarket door again. The ball comes out wide to Josh who is marked, but he has Nat in close support screaming for the ball. However Josh decides to throw a wide miss pass to Swarty on the wing who goes over for his second try and our final score, much to Nat's disgust.
There are so many positives to take from this game - attitude, discipline, defence and game management in particular. I would like to welcome all the new lads to the club - great first performances from scrummie Liam Tucker and back row Will, who had a big tackling game. Henry had a storming second match for the club and has really proved his worth and Fergus looks to be a very talented back. On the other end of the scale Robbo has returned from injury and scored tries in both of his games back and Chick has played more games for the club this season already then ever before. A massive thanks goes also to those supporters who came down to watch, it makes a real difference to the players and your attendance does not go unnoticed.
Man of the match goes to Nat at second row. He is frequently our dick of the day, but this week put in 80 minutes worth of tackling, rucking, line-out work and scrummaging.
We will take the momentum gained from this and last week's matches into the new year and climb our way up the league table to where we deserve to be.