After a free week Cantabs were able to field a strong squad against Old Brentwoods at Sedley Taylor Road. David Reed was making his debut in the 1st XV at flyhalf enabling Dwayne Iese to take up his normal slot at inside centre. Jon Perks, who was taking a break at Twickenham, was replaced by Jon Lineham at tight head. Club captain, Dan Searle, started this one on the bench along with Jonnie and Irish James; so plenty of talent in reserve as well for Mick Jones.
A one minute silence was observed prior to the kick-off following the death of former player, Alex Jeffrey, who did not recover after being involved in a road incident in the city centre.
Cantabs kicked off towards the railway on a greasy pitch but with the wind and rain of Friday having passed through, a good open game was anticipated. The early pressure came from Cantabs, but we were penalised for losing control at the ruck and despite frightful pressure from the Cantabs pack in the resulting scrum, OB scrambled the ball to safety.
The first serious attack came down the Cantabs right wing with first a storming run from Isaia out of our 22; he combined with Sami and Finlay to move the ball right up to the visitors 22. Cantabs continued to put several phases together with good rucking and eventually, Dwayne picked up centrally and timed his pass well to Finlay who had come inside. He ran diagonally to the left and scored close to the posts for the first try after 10 minutes. David Reed converted and Cantabs were on their way at 7 - 0.
Shortly afterwards, our new flyhalf had another chance to add points from 35m but the kick faded to the right. Cantabs were not to be denied for long and came straight back from the dropout. Rich Ford, made the break to set up the ruck well inside the opposition 22 and the pack gave Thom Bailey the opportunity to score with an aggressive drive for the line to the right of the posts. This time David's kick rapped the post and went wide, but we were two tries to the good and 12 - 0 after 14 minutes.
Cantabs continued to press hard, but the obdurate OB defence coped well and with Cantabs not seeming able to get any flowing moves into the game the pressure came to nothing. Both teams were losing possession at the lineouts with inaccurate throwing. OB were particularly weak in this area, particularly with two very tall and lanky 2nd row forwards who had the advantage on Cantabs in that area. Cantabs however were dominating the scrums, but somehow the OB pack was thwarting us; often with quite dubious tactics, seemingly going unpunished and making Aaron's job difficult at the foot of the scrum.
A concerted spell of pressure from Cantabs close to the OB line was finally stopped by a huge kick out of defence by OB, which was caught by Harri on the 10m line, close to the touchline. He had Francois in support but tried one of his Beasley steps, was caught and his desperate pass back to our full back was seized on by OB. The ball was passed through their backs and in seconds we were watching them touch down under the posts to make the score 12 - 7.
OB lost their outside flanker to an injury. Cantabs regained possession from yet another poor lineout inside our 22 from the resultant penalty. Dwayne made the break, as he had threatened to do on many occasions, and OB were penalised. David's kick for the corner found touch, we won the lineout, and our pack bombarded the line with a series of crash balls from our big men, but OB held firm. The ball came back, we kicked into the corner and following yet another crooked throw from the OB hooker, we had our chance with a 5m scrum. OB took it against the head and came clear!
The half finished with no further score; Cantabs had done all the pressing but were only five points to the good. James McCaughran joined the game at half time, with Francois moved to winger in place of Harri. Cantabs still looked to move the ball through the backs but errors were costing us dearly, and it was OB that had the first chance to narrow the score with a penalty from 30m out. Luckily for Cantabs this just faded wide.
15 minutes into the second half, Cantabs finally made the telling break; and it was a rampaging Thom Bailey who crashed through the defence to set up our backs on their 10m line. Irish and Francois then combined to allow our flying winger the space to score in the corner. David's left footed kick from the touchline just failed, but Cantabs had a little breathing space at 17 - 7. Dan Searle and Jonnie Heaver came on for Shed and Ben.
Next break was made by Irish James, he combined well with Finlay initially, then with Francois to release our winger. This time Francois was able to run around the defenders and dotted down under the posts, giving David a simple chance for the extra points. Score now 24 - 7 and with it our bonus point for the fourth try.
OB were not out of it yet. It took a last ditch diving tackle from Irish to prevent a try for their flying left winger.
Sami, back to his fluent best, made the next decisive break out of our half, found Irish up in support and this time Finlay was the beneficiary. He shot down the wing and dived over in the corner giving David yet another difficult kick. This time our flyhalf was up to the job with a lovely kick from the touchline; 31 -7 and Cantabs were at last putting some moves together. Try scorer, Finlay, promptly substituted to allow Harri back into the game!
Cantabs were now dominating and Jonnie and Rich combined well to move play up to the OB 22 yet again but OB cleared the danger again.
Another move by them into our right hand corner courtesy of their left winger. Their penalty took them well into our 22, but yet again the throw was crooked and Cantabs broke clear from the resultant scrum. Dwayne beat four men running out of defence but ran clear of support and was penalised for holding on. Cantabs were not to be denied for long. A well struck penalty from David, brought play back for a 5m lineout on the left. Cantabs were denied illegally, and elected for the scrum. OB seemed to have withstood the pressure but our forwards rucked for the line, moving the ball towards the posts. It was Dwayne who made the final dive, amid a fracas of forwards and was awarded the try. No problem for David and the tally was up to 38 - 7.
Finlay, came back on for the final change and Francois put him away down the left wing, for what looked like a try, until our touch judge alerted the referee for a foot on the line. His try was denied and that was that. Another six tries for Cantabs keeps them in contention. Just that one defeat away to Harlow blotting an otherwise perfect start to the season.
Irish James certainly made a big difference in the second half, Francois was able to show his pace for the two tries. But my man of the match goes to Thom Bailey for his hooking and play in the loose. Only some wayward throwing at times spoilt a near perfect game for him.
Next week we travel to Sudbury for the big one. Unbeaten Sudbury, top of the league, Cantabs five points behind them in second place, and a game that will go a long way to deciding the championship if first half of the season is any form guide. Cantabs will need to be at their best in front of a big crowd to come away with a result.
Congratulations go to our 2nd XV. The fine win against local rivals Shelford now puts them top of Eastern Counties 2W. The Club is really in a good place at the moment with our 3rd XV placed 2nd in Eastern Counties 3W and lots of competition for places.