With the wet weather over the last few months, Cantabs 2s New Years fixtures against Cottenham Renegades had been a long time coming. With both fixtures having been delayed, it was decided that both our League and Cup fixtures would be combined into Saturday's match.
Although we have a few teams we could call our local rivals, The Renegades have always been close to the heart of Cantabs, with a number of our ex-players (including the President's son) now wearing the Red and Black kit. In my time in the 2s, I can recall only a string of close losses against Cottenham and so with 2 teams playing at home, the sun out and good support on the sidelines, Saturday felt like a day to cause an upset.
Cantabs kicked off, but the ball did not make the required distance and so came the first of what was to be a huge number of Scrums taking place that afternoon. Throughout the first half, Cantabs were running some really good rugby with the ball in hand - Drew, Tozer and Fergus linking up well in the centres but we could not deliver the final blow. Our back three of Robbo, Flax and Shepherd were also on form, running back everything that was sent their way.
Renegades play a territory game, and they do it very well - a look at the current league standings will confirm this. Their skipper Baz has a fantastic boot and the pack is organised, experienced and effective. Time and time again they pinned us back deep into our half and let their big boys hustle away. Mid-way through the half and Cantabs were sat on their try line tackling hard and defending desperately for about 10 minutes before the ball was finally turned over and moved away, a testament to the physicality shown by the pack in blue. During this action, one Gades player got a little carried away and opted to tackle with his boot rather than in the traditional way... the ref was not impressed and sent him to the sideline to cool down for 10 minutes. Despite this Cottenham had, through the captain's boot, scored 2 penalties to make the halftime score 6-0 to the visitors.
The second half got underway and Cantabs started to make some inroads into the opposition defence. Big runs from Beast, Shane, Denman and Mikey all made ground, but we now needed a score. After being awarded a penalty, we found touch in the corner and stood a good chance of getting over from the line out - no such luck, the throw was deemed not straight and yet another scrum followed. Renegades retained the ball, but as the 10 went to clear his lines, Cantabs' giant of a back row Alex Woolley managed to get his fingertips in the way and charge down the kick, the ball flew off sidewards into the hands of a slightly surprised Henry who put it down for his first try in blue and white. Tom nudged the conversion over and the score was 7-6.
Adam was brought on for George, Shaggy for Henry and Sam for Matt. For the next ten minutes, things continued to go our way as Cantabs slowly made ground towards the opposition line. After a few phases in the forwards the call was made to move the ball wide - through the hands of Tom, Fergus, Drew and Tozer and finally a little pop on the 22 to fullback Robbo who came from nowhere like a steam train and smashed his way over the line. 20 minutes to go and Cantabs were 14-6 up.
The battle continued, and Cottenham kept pushing us back when they got the ball. With about 10 minutes to go and 10 metres from our line, their forwards gathered a line out and started to drive. Keeping the ball in the forwards, they troubled our pack for a few phases before finally boshing their way over our line. Good play from the visitors and a lesson to Cantabs about defending the fringes. A successful conversion and the score was 14-13.
The final 10 minutes made for great watching, as Cottenham tried to finish the job they came to do and the home side aimed to keep the ball in hand, giving nothing away that the opposition could take advantage of. In the end Cantabs held strong and as soon as time was up, the ball was sent into touch - the team erupting in celebration.
These are the sorts of games every player enjoys taking part in - a close contest played with good spirit and in good conditions.
Following 1 and 2 point losses to Cambridge and Shelford in recent weeks, it was time something went our way and every single player involved made sure that happened for us this week. Many thanks to Cottenham for a great game.