Down the M11 to Harlow for this league encounter. Irish James and Warren Cowan both in the starting fifteen having recovered from injury; Warren in for Alex Woolley who sustained knee ligament damage on our previous match. Ben James at blindside also in the team after eighteen months out with knee problems. So, Cantabs getting back to full strength for the second half of the season, with good cover on the bench. This was Ali McCormick's last appearance in a Cantabs jersey as work is moving him to Edinburgh.
Harlow, who had beaten Sudbury in their last home fixture, looked to have some large lads and according to their supporters were looking forward to taking us on up front in the mud. Harlow kicked off with the slope and wind helping them. From the start Harlow pressed hard with their forwards combining well to batter their way into our 22.
The Harlow flyhalf was kicking for the corner down their right wing and Cantabs had to steel possession from their first five metre lineout to break clear; Rich Ford taking a great catch to allow Euan to kick clear. Kicks from hand were not succeeding on the right and Harlow were taking full advantage early on by running the ball back to their forwards.
Cantabs finally broke clear on the right through Finlay who combined well with Francois to make progress into the Harlow half for the first time. Cantabs were now tackling fiercely and forcing errors. Play moved up to the Harlow 22 for the first time and Cantabs won the lineout. Charlie's throw was caught superbly at the back of the line by Ben James. He popped it down to Perks who had looped round from the front of the line. Perksy immediately ran round the line and changed his angle to a diagonal rum towards the right wing flag. He went through four tackles and dived over the line in the corner. A great try which was to be frank against the run of play; but a marvellously worked move and one which seemed to push Master Perks into an even higher gear. From that moment on Harlow just couldn't live with him. Ali's kick fell short, but with twelve minutes gone we were 0 - 5.
Cantabs continued to defend like demons, Harlow continued to kick long down their right wing and it was such a kick from a penalty which lead to the next score. We won their lineout on our own 5m line, when Warren secured a loose ball. Perks took over from him and moved the ball out to Francois who again linked with Finlay running the ball into the Harlow half. Dean secured the ball from the ruck, Richard and Ben shipped the ball left to our backs; one superb low catch from Irish and Ali was sprinting down the left wing, got the ball to Drew, who spotted it down next to the left hand flag. Against the wind, Ali failed again, but Cantabs were flowing at 0 - 10.
Harlow came at us again, but our defensive tackling was incredible and they struggled to make ground, It was 20 minutes before we saw the first scrum, and Cantabs signalled their intention to dominate the large Harlow pack. Jonny, Charlie, Shed and Warren were denying Harlow space in the loose and our backs were equally ruthless in their tackling when called on and apart from the long kicks from their No 10 which kept pushing us back we were seldom threatened. Again Cantabs worked their way out of their own 22, from such a kick, again progress was made down the right with Finlay hacking the ball forward down the right and Francois following up to tackle their winger into touch, The lineout from the Harlow 10m line was won, and our backs shipped the ball left to such effect that Drew had a comparatively easy task to score his second try wide on the left. Ali was denied again with his conversion attempt, but at
0 - 15 Cantabs were well in control.
Harlow, forced their way back into the game with a penalty from 30m, taken by their No 10, and after some tremendous pressure from the home side a second penalty brought them even closer at 6 - 15. Cantabs kept running the ball out of defence and by now the scrum was so dominant that we were winning every one. However, when we were just 15m out from the Harlow line, Dean was deemed to have fed our scrum and Harlow kicked long as usual. In his attempt to halt the Harlow progress, Dean was left in a heap on the floor and after extensive treatment had to be helped off the field as the referee blew for half time.
Jack Sykes was brought on for Dean, and Isaia replaced Jonny at prop. Cantabs with the advantage of the wind and the slope were camped in the Harlow half, but despite the territorial advantage it took 15 minutes for the next score to come. Cantabs were now throwing the ball about to great effect, with both forwards and backs combining time and time again to run Harlow ragged. Ben James stole the ball from their No 8 on the edge of our 22, Rich Ford, moved the ball out and linked with Euan, he brought the backs into play with Drew cutting back inside from the left wing to set up a ruck, Suddenly, Finlay received the ball to the right of the posts 30m out and cut back inside with a great diagonal run to score 5m out from the left hand corner flag. Ali's kick etc, but the score eased out to 6 - 20.
Harlow had brought on their 25 stone prop but Jonny and Isaia coped with him and our scrum was now so dominant it was a shock when Harlow won two against the head. A good penalty kick from Jack pushed us well into the Harlow half, Perksy bullocked forward for a gain of 20m and Harlow struggled to clear.
With 10 minutes to go, a well worked backs move was finished by Francois wide on the right with an incisive break from 20 metres. Ali failed again to get his name on the score sheet in his final game (a rare occurrence indeed), but try number five moved the score to 6 - 25. Richard took a break, Perksy gave way to Jonny in the front row but our scrum was still as dominant.
Harlow had the last say however, when sustained pressure from their big men finally breached our line in the last move of the match for an unconverted try. Final score 11 - 25.
This was certainly our best away performance for two seasons. Some great backs play to compliment an awesome pack. To a man, our pack was superb, all of them tackling, rucking and mauling Harlow off the park. Ben James has come back to the team and had a great game. Finlay certainly had his best game in a Cantabs shirt. But, my man of the match was Perks. Harlow just couldn’t handle him. On this form Cantabs will be in contention at the end of the season. The other results also went our way and we moved up to second spot in the division, just four points behind the leaders.
No game next week, but get down to the Club for Sudbury on the 8th February and book your spot for the pre match lunch.