I always enjoy the Renegades fixture. To see a small village team, bound by their social element and contesting with the much bigger clubs in the city is a great thing, and the matches we play are usually tight and physical affairs followed by top hospitality and plenty of pints. Over the last few years Renegades have won I would say 75% of the fixtures, but this season we had secured an early home win and were supported by a wave of new talent in the club. As the opposition warmed up I scanned around and realised that some of their more notable players that we have grown to be weary of were missing... no Faben, no Beaky or their big back row that usually causes headaches. The sun was out and we were ready to earn a big win.
From the kick off Cantabs started well. We had a game plan, and that was to move the ball away from the big Renegades pack and to try and run around them. After 7 or 8 minutes of play, the back line put this into practice and moved the ball straight through the hands to Lord Finlay who pranced his way over for the first score of the game. This is exactly what we had in mind. 5-0
Cottenham did have a big scrum, props much bigger than Tozer and Myself. We got an early reward for turning the scrum, and Cyril's sneaky foot managed to steal a couple of opposition balls but on the whole the Renegade's scrum was a solid affair - I'm still aching and sore as I write this on Monday morning. Their line out however, was not so organised. With just the one option, Cottenham would have appreciated a second jumper as Ollie Lewis and Steve pressured all game, stealing and disrupting a number of balls. On one such occasion about 15 minutes in, the Cantabs pack held on to the ball and went for a trundle. When someone called that the ball has left the maul, I looked up to see that Cyril had slipped his way through and was under the opposition posts. Easy conversion for Simon and 12-0 up.
The next twenty minutes of the game fell apart slightly for Cantabs. There were periods of defence where we heartily held the Gades cavalry charge at bay, but with ball in hand our flare had been somewhat extinguished. A butchered 2-on-1, a knock on over the line and a maul driven over the line but not converted (you just had to fall over Steve!) disrupted our flow. The weather changed too and we found ourselves in a hailstorm. By the end of the first half we were cold, stroppy and not performing to the standard we had set out.
My top moment from the first half would probably be Oli Roche receiving a bit of a grim high tackle and managing NOT to get in a fight about it!
The half time break - a bit of shouting, then a bit of discussion and then a bit of focus... these are the times it really pays to have players like Drew and Simon in the squad. Alex W gave way with a shoulder niggle to be replaced by Owen and by the time the whistle went Cantabs had refocused. From the restart we were playing with composure and pace.
Our defence was outstanding - it has to be to hold Cottenham to a nil and all credit to the back rows. Ollie L, Steve, Oli R and his replacement Ed tackled with an aggression and ferocity that shut down the Gades game plan. Jonny Heaver made a right nuisance of himself at the rucks and bossed the line out as usual and Nat, despite a couple of horror hands moments, was running hard and hitting low. Our lineout worked all game, with Cyril hitting the mark to perfection and the five-man giving us further options with the ball. Tozer was at his usual best - scrumming like a big boy, running like a giant but passing like a back and Ed Scott-Dickins once again caused a headache by proving he is way too good to spend half the game on the bench. In attack Simon was playing smart - kicking accurately when needed or shifting the ball to the speedy guys. Drew was working exactly as a 12 should... sometimes crashing up and making hard yards, sometimes drawing the man with the ball going behind to the wide guys. Wingers were skirting around their slower opposite numbers and Aaron was distributing ball cleanly and talking his pack around the park. There were 3 tries in the 2nd half.
With the hail still pelting down Renegade had managed to find their way into the Cantabs half. The ball was shipped along their backline nicely... UNTIL... Paul Pudney read the pass from their centre perfectly and hit the gap at pace, swiping the ball from the air in the process and proceeding all the way to the opposition line. A simple conversion from Simon and the 7 points brought with them a bit of sunshine, as the wintery shower finally subsided.
A kick from Renegades was sent midfield and Cantabs scrambled the ball together. After going through a couple of hands the ball found its way to Alex Swart-Wilson who was at storming speed. One of the fastest guys in the club, it would've taken something special to stop Swarty in full stride and indeed he got the score in at the end of a cracking run. Conversion just short but Cantabs playing with spirit again.
A penalty awarded at the breakdown was taken quickly by myself and we found ourselves launching an attack in the Renegades 22. Proper slick hands this time as Drew ran the dummy line, the ball came behind to Paul who made some yards and released Swarty. Swarty then put Owen Lewis in to make the final yards and with a bit of a stretch he touched down in the left hand corner. This time a tricky conversion for Simon, but his boot and nerve held true.
We were relieved when the whistle went. It had been a physical game with many periods where we had to withstand the barrage of Cottenham runners, and an uncomfortable feeling of back-peddling at the scrum on occasion. But overall our backs separated us from our opponents this week. Supported by our young fit pack, it felt like we could have scored 8 or 9 if we had been a little more clinical. Most amusing moment of the second half would be John Ed's least favourite....a clearance kick from Simon which managed to spiral perfectly into our fixture secretary's windscreen, splitting it in two.
Man Of The Match & Dick Of The Day
As he wasn't driving, had played his bum off yet nor had he showered... both awards and pints were given to Oli R in the clubhouse after the game.
However on reflection, for his control, kicking, talk, and vision I'm awarding MOTM to Simon Taylor. Oli, Ollie and Finlay close runners up.
DOTD, although managing to clean himself after the game, as well as steal numerous line outs, tackle like a demon and put in a huge 80, goes to Steve Conacher for not scoring that drive over the line.
We will be looking for a friendly for next Saturday after Shelford 4s announced their withdrawal from the league and the collapse of their team this weekend.