The first thing I do when I get given a fixtures list at the start of the season is check when the Shelford game is. I can't help it... for years our social little rugby club has been trying to complete with the money clubs and for years we have been coming off worse. Shelford run 3 social teams, so our 2nds vs their 4ths should be a fair and level contest and this is what Cantabs wished for as they arrived at the Davey field, hoping the Peacocks had kicked their habit of playing ringers which had ruined these fixtures last season. Either way we were in good form, fired up for this game and it was bound to a feisty fixture between local rivals.
With 40+ player's available (not including first team) and no 3rd team game, selection was particularly tough this week. Commitment to training has been fantastic and there are plenty of guys in the club that deserve a 2's shirt who did not get one this time around - keep up the hard work, you are being noticed!
Before commencing any sport however, today we would be remembering a man who had been tragically taken away from us. Alex Jeffery played his youth rugby at Shelford and came to play with us at Cantabs last season. He was the nicest, kindest person and we were devastated to hear that he had passed away on 8th November. Putting any rivalry aside for a moment, both teams stood alongside each other to observe a minutes silence to remember Alex and to reflect upon this sad loss.
And so to kick off. Shelford started the game on the narrow top pitch and the first 15 minutes were spent between the 22 metre lines as both teams tried to find a way through. Eventually Cantabs knocked it on just inside their half, and Shelford were awarded the scrum. Cantabs had made changes this week to the pack, and with Tozer, Keith and Darren in the front row things were back on track. We turned over the scrum and Josh went blind, moving the ball to Paul on the wing. Graddage danced his way through a few tackles and eventually popped a perfectly timed ball in to Pete who was running in support. One more tackler to beat and Pete passed the ball back infield to Josh who made his way over the line for the first score of the game. Chris slotted the conversion beautifully. 7-0
25 minutes in and Shelford had not entered our half for a while. Cantabs are making good ground with pick-and-go balls and crashes in the forwards but the next try comes from some outstanding backs play. The ball is moved to Drew who crashes up and passes to Thom. Thom makes a good 20 metres, skipping through potential tacklers and gets it to Chris who manages to release Paul on the wing who darts over. 12-0
Cantabs had clearly taken control of this game. Shelford did get some possession, but every time they ran at us they were met by an unforgiving wall of defence. Pete and Laurence were disrupting Shels line-out all day and the scrum was going Cantabs way for a change. Open play and Keith made one of his trademark runs. From halfway he smashed through one, two, three, four peacocks only to be eventually held up over the line. Shelfords scrum however was turned over by Cantabs and the blue and whites had one more point to make before half time. Pete picked up from number 8 and popped to Josh who fed Chris. Chris scrambled for the line but came up short, Pete picked the ball and had a go himself but it was skipper Nat who took the try. 17-0
Highlights of the first half - Cantabs coming straight out of the blocks and playing with full intensity from the first whistle, continuous tackling and solid defence led by Nat, powerful scrummaging and the whole team keeping to the game plan.
Second half got underway and the game continued in a similar fashion. Before long we worked a scrum on the halfway line blind with a pick up from Pete who moved the ball to Paul. I thought Graddage was going to make it the whole way, but he gets stopped just short. We recycle the ball and quickly spread it the whole width of the pitch to the other wing. Craig had been waiting to get his hands on the ball and now he finally had it he wanted to capitalise. He skipped and stepped his way through the defenders to score. Lovett stepped up to slot the conversion from far out 24-0
Time for a couple of changes, Borja on for Thom who had been excellent in the centre and Ed on for Chris who had been a work horse all day - the scrum showed this in particular. Ollie Lewis had a storming game this week, throwing great line out ball and tackling everything. He took a break for Charlie Deller to come on with some fresh legs.
Cantabs continued to dominate over Shelford who were starting to look very tired. They went down to 14 men briefly following an injury. Unfortunately they didn't have any subs (or supporters) on their touch line, so opted to borrow one from their neighbouring match. Eventually Shelford entered the Cantabs half and were rewarded by a penalty - a slightly iffy kick charge down from Ed. They couldn't face running at us and opted to kick the points. 24-3
Final try of the game came to Craig. Cantabs stormed their way up the pitch like they had done all game. Crashing the ball up in the forwards before releasing the backs. Paul Graddage charged up with the ball in hand and nearly made the line. He threw an offload which ended up bobbling its way across the pitch to Craig's feet. He instantly picked it up and sprinted through to the try line as the Shelford played just stood and watched. Chris was unlucky to hit the upright on the conversion. 29-3
In the final five minutes Cantabs did nap slightly, and after 3 penalties in a row Keith was spotted by Sir giving the opposition a friendly slap on the back of the head. This was enough to banish him to the touch line for the last few minutes of the game. Shelford opted to kick their penalty but couldn't capitalise and the final score was 29-3.
Highlights of the second half: Continuous hard work in the forwards - in particular Darren who played the best he had all season and Laurence who was brilliant as ever, Drew controlled the defence throughout and back three this week were on top form - I think on an adult sized pitch, both wingers would have got another try in.
Man Of The Match was Nat. Our usual dick of the day was all over the park this week and even bagged himself a try, his tackling was quality and he has really grown into the Captain's role while Denman's been away massaging his kidney.
Dick Of The Day goes to Keith for his super soft yellow card.
Cantabs have been growing and growing in strength over the last year. Our second team so far have beaten Saffron Walden, Renegades, Cambridge Exiles, Haverhill and now Shelford 4s for the first time ever and have the lowest points scored against them in the league. The club has recruited a whole host of new talent where the other nearby teams have struggled for numbers. I can only assume that the word has got out about what it is like to play for Cantabs. The whole club trains together regardless of team selection, we focus on winning games and have a full calendar of quality social events. If anyone reading this is feeling unfulfilled with their rugby club, why not come down to Cantabs and find out how it should be done...