Upminster, the club that had put paid to our promotion chances last season, were the visitors to Sedley Taylor Road; so a tougher match was expected. Promising winger Alex Whyte was promoted from the 2ns XV to the bench for his first taste of rugby in the 1sts and Irish James McCaughran replaced Sami at centre with the Fijian having to work. Seb Trower returned to blindside after a week out injured; but otherwise Cantabs were unchanged. Perksy started at tight head but had reported a bad back, so time would yell if he could last the course.
Simon Taylor kicked off towards the clubhouse in near perfect rugby conditions. Cantabs made all the early running and worked their way into the Upminster 22. A period of fierce tackling from both sides followed as each pack tried to insert some dominance. The visitors managed to just about hold onto their first scrum and worked the ball up-field out of danger. A cross kick from the Us fly-half beyond our defence bounced awkwardly for Francois and Harri and was seized by their right winger who was able to score at will under the posts; 0 - 7 to Upminster after eight minutes play and Cantabs knew they were in a game.
Virtually from the restart, Upminster were caught offside, and Simon made no mistake with the penalty from 25m to the left of the posts; 3 - 7.
Dwayne made the incisive break for the next score, taking two defenders out of play and cutting through towards the right wing, where Finlay had a bit to do, but managed to evade his tackler to dive over for the score. The try went unconverted, but Cantabs were now ahead at 8 - 7 after 13 minutes.
Almost immediately, the Cantabs backs combined to allow Irish to slice through from the left with a lovely diagonal run. He found Aaron up in support slipped the ball inside to him for the try under the posts. The best move of the match so far and Cantabs were away at 15 - 7.
Upminster were now being run ragged by a rampant Cantabs; another great series of support play and passing saw Cantabs halted right under the Upminster posts, with the award of a scrum. Play was halted for several minutes while two Upminster forwards received extended treatment; their second row finally limping off with a calf injury. The scrum was won by Cantabs and the ball shipped to the backs with Harri reaping the benefit this time, diving over in the left hand corner for the try. Simon made the kick from the touchline to make the score 22 - 7 after 20 minutes. Perksy finally gave up on his back and Charlie was brought on at tight head.
Cantabs were soon back on the attack; Simon kicked long from his own 22, down the right wing and Finlay raced after the ball to put the Us fullback under pressure. The ball was carried over the line and touched down by the visitors to award Cantabs a scrum on 5m. Cantabs tried for the shove, but were held well, Rich Ford went close, the ruck formed a metre out and it was captain Dan Searle who dived through a melee of players to score in the corner for our bonus point try; 27 - 7 with only 22 minutes on the clock.
Upminster were not done though and to their credit, with two subs already on the field, they came back at Cantabs with an extended period of pressure that required some resolute defence to protect our try line. Cantabs were pinned back in their 22 and persisted in trying to run the ball out. Finally Simon managed to make touch on our 22, but Upminster were enjoying their best spell of the game and from the lineout made ground down their right. Some sloppy defence and suddenly the right winger was in at the corner and Cantabs were pegged back to 27 - 12, with 30 minutes gone.
Cantabs scrum was now under a lot of pressure as the Upminster forwards could sense there was still something in the game for them, and it took a good deal of defending from Cantabs to protect their line as Upminster battled to score again. But for a knock on o=in the corner, Upminster would have scored a try right in the left hand corner. That was the last play of the half.
Dan came off at the break; Pete Collins moving to open-side. The second half progressed with both sides battling away to make the decisive break for the first ten minutes, Time and again, Dwayne tried to run at the Us defence, but he was shackled well by the defenders or the support players were just too far off his shoulder for the pass. Upminster nearly got away on their right, and were in not for a wild pass to the winger, a score would have been a certainty. Every time their Fijian full back was brought into the line he looked dangerous.
The missed opportunity seemed to gel Cantabs into action and a penalty kick into the right hand corner gave us a chance with the resultant 5m lineout. Seb caught well, the maul formed, did its job and Pete Collins applied the finishing touch with a ret in the corner. No luck with Simon's conversion but Cantabs were finally moving the scoreboard again at 32 - 12.
Another lineout and maul gave the platform for the next score. This time it was on the left, the maul moved the ball well into the red area, Dwayne sensed the maul stalling and yet again took on the defence, cut through two defenders, slipped the ball to the ever-supporting Aaron who went under the posts for the try. 39 - 12.
Next score went to Upminster following a good spell of pressure, with Cantabs losing concentration. The posts were threatened by the ruck and the referee awarded a 5m penalty to the visitors, who moved the ball first to the right than switched play back to the left, and finally their fullback ran in close to the posts for a well deserved try. A straightforward conversion followed and Upminster saw a glimmer of light at 39 - 19 with 20 minutes to go.
Alex Whyte came on for Finlay. Cantabs now looked to be well in control however and the forwards moved the ball into the opposition 22 with some rigorous rucking and support play. A penalty to the corner, gave the pack their next chance to demonstrate their mauling from the lineout. Two rucks and the try came from Thom Bailey who dived over unopposed. That try rather killed off the Upminster lads, who had given their all, and Simon kicked well to make the score 46 - 19.
Final try of the game went to man of the match Seb Trower, who picked up the ball from a ruck close to the Upminster 10m line. He spotted a gap and raced through down the left hand touch, diving over with flourish, but diving Simon too much to do for the extra points. Final Score 51 -19.
Cantabs consolidate their place at the top of the division with this win and with wins for our 2nds and 3rds at the expense of Cambridge and Shelford it was another great day for the club. Thinks are really buzzing at the moment down Sedley Taylor Road. Some great rugby and a full clubhouse, enough to make even our Treasurer start to smile.