Eight changes for Cantabs from the team that won at Lowestoft last week. The visitors were West Norfolk, back in the London league after four seasons away, and a tough game was expected. Youngster Joe Allison was making his first start for the team, and for him it was unusually at scrum half. Like Joe, Shane Rea, Pete Collins and Seb Trower had moved up from last week's 2nd XV.
The pitch was greasy after an hour of rain prior to the kick off, but otherwise near perfect conditions for rugby. Early play saw Cantabs pressing hard; but stout defence from WN kept the home team at bay. The first scrum to WN showed the pattern of play for the match with Cantabs winning against the head quite easily. Three minutes into the game, Sammi, our Fijian centre, powered through the defence to win a penalty centrally on the 22. Euan made no mistake to make the score 3 - 0.
After five minutes, Cantabs were caught offside just 25 metres out from our line and only the post prevented Wests from levelling the score. WN continued to press, but Cantabs were not really threatened and Euan cleared the danger. It was Finlay Wilson who created the next good position with a typical Finlay run from his right wing just on our 22, diagonally across the pitch to the break down on the WN 22 close to the left hand touch. The resultant scrum saw Cantabs hold the ball in, driving the opposition back, before we gained touch on the 5m line. The line out was won, WN were penalised and we went for a 5m scrum, The scrum moved rapidly to the try line, but we lost control at the vital moment and Wests breathed again. Cantabs were making all the running but the score would not come.
Then WN had a good spell following a great run down the right hand touch line by their winger. Cantabs were caught in possession, without support and Wests got another pot at goal only to see the penalty drift wide of the far post. WN then lost their blindside flanker after a heavy tackle. Newcomers Paul Pudney and then hooker Tom Bailey showed their speed with good drives into the WN half; but Cantabs for all their dominance were not making it pay with further points. Sammi went close following a grubber kick through the WN defence only to get pipped to the touch down by the WN fullback.
35 minutes gone and a loose pass was snaffled by the WN centre and he showed a clean pair of heels to break from his own 22, outpacing our chasing backs to sprint in under our posts. Easy conversion made the score 3 - 7, and Cantabs paying for squandering so much possession.
The second half continued with the same pattern; Cantabs pressing WN defending well and forcing errors and wild passing. A strong drive from Perksy gained a penalty 25 metres out. Euan's kick rapped the post and WN cleared the danger. Another good run from Thom Bailey saw us well into the WN 22, and a series of scrums saw Cantabs do everything other than score again. Finally the ball was moved wide to Francois on the left. He appeared to have been halted three metres out, but his strength in the tackle allowed him to keep his feet, drive forward and dive over in the corner for a try. WN claimed they had hands on the ball, but the referee was ideally placed to allow the score. No luck with the conversion, so the score moved to 8 - 7.
WN then lost a man to a yellow card for persistent off-side. A driving Cantabs scrum with Pete Collins holding the ball in well, saw Cantabs gain 20m. We won the penalty, Irish threatened to kick to the nearer left hand touch then switched the kick to the right, forcing WN to run the ball into touch on 5m. This time the WN blindside got a second break from play with a second yellow card and WN were 13 against 15. Strangely, the visitors then had their best period of play with some driving mauls that brought play right up to the Cantabs 5m line. Only desperate defence kept the Norfolk men out, and Cantabs at last cleared. Dave Evershed and Jonny Heaver continued to show their strength as Cantabs forwards moved the ball to safety.
Finally another chance for Cantabs with a penalty on the 22, which Euan made with ease; 11 - 7, but still Cantabs not able to relax. Drew Tilley was now on for Pudney, and Seb Trower for Luke. From the restart, Wests got their rolling maul working again but were penalised when looking dangerous, and Cantabs moved clear again. Euan took a knock and was substituted with Paul back on. Irish moved to flyhalf and Francois to full-back. Another scrum set up Irish James. He cut through the defence dummied to pass and managed to get the ball away to Pete Collins in the tackle. He was held up over the line and Cantabs had yet another chance to scrummage the ball in for a try. Again we failed!
Finally Cantab's dominance in the scrum paid off; five minutes from time the ball was moved out to the backs and a flowing set of passes put Finlay away on the right wing and he made no mistake, touching down in the corner. Score was now 16 - 7. Irish failed to add the extra but Cantabs were home and dry. WN did not surrender, and again got down to our 5m line, but Cantabs were now defending resolutely and cleared the danger. Final whistle came and Cantabs were grateful to take the win and remain unbeaten this season.
Again all Cantabs three teams made it a clean sweep of victories on the day. That's eight games played by all sides this term and eight victories gained. The old club is buzzing once again. Mick Jones has nearly everyone back next week, so the 1st XV travel to Stowmarket looking to consolidate our strong start to the season.