Cantabs 2's went on the road away to Hitchin this weekend hoping to continue a winning run. With tabs missing a number of players a number of new recruits where drafted in to plug the gaps and performed admirally. Crucially, Thursday night had left Cantabs with a significant hole to fill at 10 with Josh pulling out due to injury but Robbo stepped up to the mark to complete the Cantabs line up.
The fine weather which has blessed Cantabs for the last few weeks failed to materialise and from the outset the rain began and the weather gradually deteriorated during the match, restricting the opportunity for fine running rugby.
Cantabs came out of the blocks well, putting good pressure on the strong Hitchin pack which were causing trouble at the Cantabs ruck. Seeking to re-enforce the clear-out the Cantabs forwards overcommitted to a ruck on the far right of the pitch, leaving the backs exposed. Despite the inclement weather, Cantabs looked to spread the ball wide, but the slippery ball went loose and a chip ahead from the Hitchin wing sent Cantabs into disarray. Dispite a brave chase from Chris, the ball sat up favourably for Hitchin, allowing them to notch up the first points of the afternoon, with the conversion fading across the face of the posts. 5-0.
More worryingly for Cantabs, Robbo was starting to struggle with his Calf and it looked as though Cantabs may be left without a fly half, or even worse with Mick volunteering his services.
Despite some good attacking play from both sides, the majority of play centred around the half way, with some great defence and hard running lines from Tozer, Dave and Charlie. Then the inevitable happened, with Robbo pulled up again and was forced from the pitch. In a flash Mick had whipped off his tracksuit, revealing a pristine Cantabs shirt (which would remain as such throughout the game).
As the half progressed Cantabs looked to up the tempo in the game and increase the pressure on Hitchin, preferring to keep the ball in hand and punish the retreating Hitchin defence, exploiting gaps down the blindside. From a penalty Mick took a quick tap catching the Hitchin defence napping before offloading to Tozer who delicately popped the ball to Pete to stroll in from the 22. Mick added the extras to put Cantabs in front for the first time 5-7.
Cantabs continued to play to a simple game plan, using the wind behind them to pin Hitchin back into their own half with kicks to the corner. Cantabs second score came through some quick thinking from Chris, taking a quick lineout to feed Alex to stroll over for a score under the posts, with Mick adding the extras shortly before half time 5-14.
Cantabs turned around at the break ahead but aware of the danger of switching off as the weather closed in. Changes at half time saw Keith on for Darren in the front row and Chris moving into the second row powerhouse, allowing Pete to move to the openside for Finn, who had a great game snaffling ball but was struggling with a knock.
During the second half, the aggressive Cantabs defence remained solid, holding out a number of dangerous Hitchin excursions close to the line and Dave doing a sterling job to secure key Cantabs ball from the back of an under pressure Cantabs scrum which was starting to struggle with the slippy surface underfoot. A simple game plan prevailed for Cantabs, keeping the ball tight with the forwards and looking to work the corners with probing kicks from Mick.
Indiscipline got the best of the aggravated Hitchin pack, twice reducing them to 14 men for late tackles and not retreating as Cantabs again looked to play a fast tempo game. This reduction allowed Cantabs to capitalise on a period of sustained pressure on the Hitchin 5m, with Graddage sliding over on the right wing to finish of some slick hands, Mick was unable to add the extras but Cantabs where starting to control the game well, 5-19.
With weather closing in, the game began to disintegrate into a set piece battle, with a gutsy performance and great pressure applied by the Cantabs backs in midfield, putting Hitchin under pressure and scrambling well.
With the final whistle the game concluded 5-19 to Cantabs, maintaining the momentum for a local league encounter with Shelford next week.
Man of the Match: Dave O'Neill - great all-round game and strong carrying getting Cantabs on the front foot.
Dick of the Day: Mick Jones - for being described by the ref as a 'gobby bastard' and not making a tackle all game.