Visitors were Canvey Island, who although bottom of the league, had only succumbed to the last kick of the game earlier in the season. Cantabs were enjoying a good run however and the return of Sammi Kididromo and Ben James to the squad was great news. Particularly so in the case of Ben who had been out injured for nearly a year. Seven changes in total from the previous week, but with strength in depth nowadays, the 2nd XV on the adjacent pitch were fielding 10 players who had competed in the 1st XV this season. This was to be Ali McCormick's last home game before he moves up to Scotland. It was also physio, Nikki Stamp's last home game, before work too takes her from us. Both will be sorely missed.
The Islanders kicked off towards the railway. The pitch was very slippery, but perfectly playable even after the recent heavy rain. The first lineout for Canvey was plucked out of the air by Alex Woolley, Perks took the ball on and made good ground down the touchline and set up the ruck for Dean who switched play away to the right. Finlay was in the action twice, running the ball at the Canvey defence to good effect. The ball went into touch on the opposite wing at the Canvey 22, but the resulting lineout was again won by Alex. This time he held on, the maul formed and rolled forward relentlessly. At the line, Rich Ford made no mistake, touching down unopposed. Ali pushed his kick past the far post, but with only two minutes gone Cantabs were up and running at 5 - 0.
The first scrum followed the restart as Cantabs knocked on. Cantabs simply pushed Canvey off the ball and Dean released our backs. Dean joined the line and took on the defence and was just brought up short of the line. From the ruck, Charlie Searle broke through his tackler and dived in for try number two, to the left of the posts. Ali again missed the conversion; the score now 10 - 0.
Cantabs were soon back on the attack and this time it was Francois sprinting down the left at speed with two men in support, screaming for the ball. However, he was not to be denied, cutting back inside to score close to the posts. This time Ali made no mistake and with ten minutes gone Cantabs were 17 - 0 to the good.
Cantabs must have relaxed at that point because in his first serious venture into our half the Canvey scrum half chipped the ball wide to the left. The Islanders' winger caught the ball, evaded our tackler and dived over in the corner. The conversion was a good one and the score was now 17 - 7 and only quarter of an hour gone.
A high tackle on Harri gave Euan the chance of a kick for the left hand corner. He hit touch 15m out and Alex again was on hand to secure the lineout. This time our rolling maul had just gone 5m when it went down. The referee awarded a penalty for pulling down and Rich elected for the scrum. Our shove moved the scrum to the Canvey line. Dean elected to switch play to the backs but Canvey's defence held firm. Cantabs were penalised for not releasing at the tackle, and Canvey attempted to kick for touch. The ball was caught brilliantly by Charlie Searle, who charged back down the left wing setting up yet another attack. Perks and Dave Evershed tried to blast their way through to the line, then the backs took over with Ali and Sammi going close. Canvey tried to clear yet again after Charlie went close to scoring, we knocked on, won the scrum yet again and Rich Ford ran the ball back again, and was tackled close to the line. From the ruck, Dean James was in his zone and muscled his way over for try number four. Ali kicked this one, from a much harder angle, and Cantabs had earned their try bonus point after only 22 minutes with the score moving on to 24 - 7.
Cantabs moved into the Canvey 22 yet again, Alex won another lineout and first Dan Searle and then Rick Ford carved their way towards the try line, setting up Ben James for the final assault on the line. The post was perhaps too close, and this time Ben was held up, with four men out wide calling for the ball. Canvey knocked on, the scrum from 5m out was a formality, with Rich Ford just held up, but Dean on hand to score at the second attempt at the back of the scrum. Easy one for Ali this time, and the score was now 31 - 7.
By now it was clear that our height advantage in the line and our scrummaging were dictating the game. Such was the power in the scrum that Dean was tending to allow the forwards to trundle the ball forward too often perhaps, and Ali came through on the blindside twice but the pass to him was too delayed.
The final move of the half came from yet another scrum, which saw Dean moving the ball wide to Euan, who put Francois away down the left wing. Francois was held up, but continued to make ground. The scrum went to Canvey, we took the ball against the head for the umpteenth time and Dean switched the ball out to the right, Sammi broke the defensive line, got the ball away to Ali, who timed his pass perfectly to the supporting Finlay, who scored in the corner. Ali pushed his kick wide, but the half finished at 36 - 7.
Mick rang the changes at half time; Ali replaced by Jack Sykes at full-back, Perks rested for Isaia, so if the Canvey front row were relieved it was to be short-lived! Alex also gave way to Warren Cowan; ditto. A penalty brought Cantabs into the Canvey 22, and from a knock-on, Canvey held onto the ball at the scrum for the first time in the match. Canvey kicked clear and Sammi bulldozed his way back up to the line. Somehow Canvey cleared the ball to safety, but Cantabs came straight back at them; this time Jack and Charlie combined to give Charlie his second try of the game. Jack it was who converted with a good kick wide of the posts, to make the score 43 - 7.
Next attack was again instigated by Dean running the ball at the Canvey defence. He brought Euan into the move and his pass out to Francois on the left saw our centre switch back inside, to score his second and our eighth try. No conversion this time from Jack; the score now 48 - 7.
Next move took Cantabs into the opponents 22, we won a lineout, Warren Cowan held onto the ball and we mauled the ball towards the Canvey line, just knocking on 10m out. The scrum was won against the head, we trundled, Rich Ford fell on the ball for try number nine; 53 - 7.
Canvey then had one of their better patches with a series of tap penalties in our 22 allowing their big men the chance of success, only for Rich Ford to come up with his best tackle of the match, securing the ball and allowing Euan to kick to safety. Canvey were not to be denied however we contrived to give the ball back, a kick over the top, a friendly bounce and the ball was gathered by their flyhalf who made a great score in the left hand corner. The conversion was from the touchline, but was perfect and the score moved to 53 - 14.
Ali came back on at the expense of Harri, in an attempt to give him his last moment of glory at Sedley Taylor Road. And our top points scorer of the last four seasons was not to be denied for long. He finished off a flowing move down the left with a run and flying dive to touch down to make the score 58 - 14. Perksy also came back on for Jonnie for the final few minutes.
Francois and Sammi then combined again to cut a hole through the Canvey defence to move play well into the Canvey 22. We knocked on, won the scrum and continued with the battery, Sammi went close, Dean moved the ball wide and Ben James scored in the corner; 63 - 14.
The restart kick was caught beautifully by Charlie who held on despite the tackler arriving with him in mid air. We moved the ball wide to Ali, Jack came into the line, he passed to Dean and with the line like a magnet to Dean he was not to be denied; his hat- trick of tries, our 12th and this one converted by Ali who grabbed the ball from Jack to finish the scoring and the game at 70 - 14.
The lads formed a second tunnel at the finish for Nikki; a nice touch, and then went over to the other pitch to cheer home the 2nd XV and witnessed the final try against Ely 2nds by Mikey Goode, to make their final score 113 to 7.
A great day at Sedley Taylor Road with our top two teams scoring 183 points. The 3rds travelled to St Neots 2nds and were narrowly beaten 25 to 20, but a memorable day for the Club that keeps us in 3rd place in the division and now on the same points as 2nd place Campion.
Next home game is on 8th February, when we host Sudbury - book early for the pre-match lunch.