This weekend saw the 2s facing an old opposition - March. Throughout my previous seasons at Cantabs, I have come to expect that the Bears would not be travelling to their away games and were not much competition within our league structure. Therefore it was a bit of a shock early in the season when our 2nd team made the journey to the fenlands only to be greeted by a rejuvenated Bears team who proceeded to open us up and beat us by 45 points to nil. Credit due then to those at March who have brought the club back from near closure last season to see them back and winning games.
Our objective was simple, to continue playing with the form that we have been displaying over the last few weeks and to overtake March in the league table to rectify our loss earlier in the season.
March kicked off on the Cantabs pitch, which this week was suffering a little from the recent weather and use. Immediately Cantabs were on the attack and it didn't take long for us to earn a penalty from the ruck area, deep in the opposition half. We opted to kick, and Jack Sykes sent to ball straight through the posts and onto the railway track for the first score on the board - 3 points up and 1 ball down. More pressure from Cantabs after the restart and we find ourselves at a line out on the opposition 5 metre line. I can't remember quite what happened, it was all a bit scrappy but we managed to secure the ball and gain an advantage, next thing I turn around and Ian Watkins had managed to smash his way over the line - happy days.
March were not afraid of the ball, and were happy to run at us, however the defensive work we have been doing at training had finally found its way onto the pitch. If they crashed it up narrow, they were met by our forwards and if they gave it to the backs, it rarely made it past inside centre, with Drew bossing the back line up and into their faces. Eventually they would hit one phase too many and get turned over at the ruck.
20 minutes in we gained a penalty which Lovett sent into the top corner. Our line out and we decided to catch and drive. Shaggy caught the ball and brought it down, Denman secured it and waited for the rest of the pack to drive the maul over the line for an easy put down - 9th try of the season so far for the 'Posh Prop' captain.
Despite the muddy pitch and the size of the opposition front row, our scrummaging this week was superb. Helped out by Chris Walliker in the second row making his 2nd team debut, the March pack were either going backwards at a rate of knots or crumbling apart in front of us. This became our weapon late in the first half when we managed to drive over the opposition line to give Ian at number 8 his second try of the game, giving us as solid lead at half time.
Kicking off the second half, we immediately piled the pressure on. Fresh legged and angry, Dan Searle immediately made a nuisance of himself at back row and we manage to turn over straight away. A couple of forwards crash balls and Walliker busts a gut to push the defence back and score over the line, helped out be a forward or two. 2 minutes into the second half and we had scored again.
The game died down for the next 15 minutes or so. Muddy conditions and tiring legs caused handling errors for both teams meaning that we ended up with plenty of stops and scrums. Eventually we were awarded a penalty in the March half and opted to kick for goal. Sykes casually converted again, keeping the scoreboard ticking over.
A few minutes later and its fun-time at the scrum again. Enough is enough for the referee and this time we gain a penalty as the opposition front row pops up. Lovett sends it to the corner, and the pack decide on their tactics on the muddy walk towards the mark as a minion digs the ball out of the ditch. Once again the line out operates beautifully and we secure the ball at the front to get our drive on. We end up scoring another, with Jonny and Nat arguing over who scored. Jonny won the argument.
In our stride now and we find ourselves once again knocking at the March try line. This time our handling error gives the Bears a chance to relieve the pressure with a scrum. We fail to turn over, but suddenly it comes flying out of the March back row. Hawk-eyed Sykes spots the loose ball and dives on it to claim another try for Cantabs, who are really putting on a show now.
During the next bit of play there was a bizarre moment where most of the players stopped for a perceived knock on, although the ref hadn't actually blown. The ball worked its way mid-field where it found Mr Goode. Having a scan of the pitch, he decided the best thing was to put in a cross field kick, much to the amusement of the crowd. I didn't think the kick was all that bad, but the consensus after the game was that Mikey deserved the Dick Of The Day award - who am I to argue with the masses?
Final play of the game was another great score. Cantabs forwards smashed up the pitch, presumably trying to get closer to the clubhouse for a beer and a spot by the fire. Once we had made it into the March 22, the ball was send to the backs to seal the deal. Through straight hands the ball finds it's way to Francois on the wing who just has the full-back to beat. The Frenchman covers 20 metres, tries to sidestep and he falls over in the mud. The crowd groan and the players sigh, before realising it was all an elaborate ploy! Francois gets back to his feet and dances his way over the line. Just to top it off, Jack finishes the match by drop-kicking the conversion, an absolute peach.
Cantabrigian 2s 45 - 0 March Bears
Captain, players and supporters all left the pitch feeling very happy with this win. Unlike last week's walkover, we really had to work tirelessly in defense to keep March out of the game, and we maintained our patience and discipline for 80 minutes. A big thanks also to Joe Allison who travelled down to help in our back line this week. Man Of The Match was Ian Watkins, who scored two and made numerous big breaks. This win moved us up 2 places in the league, and we are now sitting at 5th. A win next week over local rivals Shelford will move us up another place.