Cantabs travelled to South Woodham Ferrers for the second time in the history of the club knowing that if we were to move out of the danger zone this was a game we needed to target. Stef Pritchard was back from his travels in the 2nd row and Alex Stafford had recovered sufficiently from his shoulder injury to take over from James Hayward at flyhalf with Toby Carver partnering him at scrum half.
The rain had settled in for the afternoon as SWF kicked off and although Cantabs worked the ball into the opposition half with a series of rucks, the Essex men won the ball when we became isolated and following a well struck penalty into the left hand corner, mauled the lineout over for an easy try. The greasy surface made defending the rolling maul difficult and Cantabs had still not woken up when the conversion went over. Yet another disastrous start to an away game with the score at 7 - 0 and four minutes on the clock.
Cantabs won a penalty straight from the restart inside the 22, and Nick Denham made no mistake: 7 - 3.
SWF were soon back in the same corner following a penalty for an infringement in the ruck but although their lineout went to hand, Cantabs were ready for the rolling maul and snuffed out the danger. Our turn to attack and we found ourselves ten metres out, but our attempts at the line came to nothing.
Next attack also came from Cantabs with a great catch and drive from the SWF ten metre line deep into the 22. But the referee halted that one and Cantabs were denied the score. SWF then took the initiative moving the ball across our 22 from right to left and made the try line close to the corner flag. No conversion this time but now 12 - 3.
Cantabs won a scrum against the head and we had a great chance to add points when SWF were penalised just outside their 22. However, Nick's kick to touch went out in the dead ball area, and SWF moved straight back on the offensive from the 22 drop out. Cantabs could not get to grips with their runners, were caught offside at the breakdown, giving SWF an easy shot at goal: 15 - 3.
Cantabs then used the rolling maul to great effect, moving the ball 30m into the 22 and gained the penalty. This time Nick's kick found touch, we won the lineout but were again penalised in the ruck and the danger had gone for the home side.
Cantabs were losing a lot of good possession in the loose, with their back row plundering turn over after turn over. Again Cantabs were penalised in the ruck and Sir had seen enough after a warning had been given; Francois off for ten.
Isaia made a good break down the right on half way and Cantabs again threatened but could not break through. After this SWF made serious inroads into the red zone and Cantabs conceded two scrums right under our posts. For the first time in the match SWF won good ball, moved the ball to their big man who scored easily under the posts to make the half time score 22 - 3.
No immediate changes by Mick at half time. Shortly after the restart John Regan pulled a hamstring chasing down their right winger. Xavier Touschek came on for his first ever game for Cantabs and we were also back up to 15 as Francois rejoined the fray. Cantabs then enjoyed a good spell of pressure and for ten minutes our pack bombarded the SWF line but their defence held firm.
Keegan Evans replaced Tom at hooker and Charlie came on for Ben James. Cantabs gained a succession of penalties in the left hand corner, and then moved the ball right. SWF lost a forward for persistent offside and we opted for the scrum to the right of the posts. Although we moved towards the line and SWF were in complete disarray, somehow they got the ball away. Cantabs came straight back at them but knocked on the crash ball and SWF again cleared the danger. Cantabs were then penalised for going offside, SWF went for the corner, but again Cantabs held the maul, only to see the ball shipped out to the backs to the right, then back to the left, where their winger went in for their fourth try virtually unopposed to make the score 29 - 3.
Isaia was now rested, Charlie moving to prop, Pete Collins also took a break allowing Tom back on. Finally Cantabs got the reward for all the territorial advantage, having again mauled the ball into the opposition 22. Perksy got close, so did Dave O'Neill and Alex but this time Shed was not to be denied, crashing over for a score to the right of the posts. Easy conversion for Nick who made the score 29 - 10.
It was now all Cantabs, with Alex Stafford putting in some lovely kicks for the line. Our scrum was now dominant, we were winning all our ball in the lineouts through Stef and Ben. Another penalty kick from Nick into the corner saw us win the lineout, SWF were penalised and from the scrum this time Toby moved the ball straight out to Alex rather than allowing the scrum to go for the line. He crashed through to the right of the posts and that was that. Time ran out with the final score at 29 - 15.
Again Cantabs came back well in the second half, we gave far less ball away at the ruck after the break and our confidence grew. If only, we could start these away games as well as we finish them.
Yet another attempt at winning on our travels next week when we go to Campion.