With the first team pitch out of action due to recent inclement weather the 2s were again on the Long road pitches for their first game of 2016, a pitch which has proven a happy hunting ground over the season. With a strong team selected on paper it was important that Cs made it count to keep pressure on the top of the table. Despite threats of rain earlier in the morning, when it came to game time it remained dry despite some ominous looking clouds, so there were to be no excuses for poor hands.
Skipper Laurence won the toss and elected to play downhill for the first half as we looked to control the tempo of the game from the early stages.
On receiving the kick-off, Cantabs made good work of the structured play which has aided us in recent weeks, exploiting the blindside and using runners on shoulders to slip tackles and make inroads towards the March line. The back line, with Euan running the show at 10 was functioning well, and, with Josh acting as a second receiver from fullback, we were able to get effective width on the ball to Craig and a very hung-over Fin on the wings.
Nat, Dave and Jonny were making great runs into the March defense and bringing great intensity to the contact area. With the forwards sustaining the pressure on March, the backs made sure we were playing in the right areas of the field, with Euan nudging the ball into the corners or down field. From the lineout, Cantabs were able to put pressure on the throw, with Laurence getting across his opposition and swat back the ball on the Cantabs side and setting the tone in the set piece.
With Cantabs exerting pressure on March across the park we were on top of the stats in both possession and territory and it wasnt long before it began to tell on the scoreboard, with Cs making it up to the 4 tries needed for the bonus point in the first 20mins. Tim then got himself on the scoreboard for his first after some determined chasing from the Cantabs back row forced a turnover from a kick which was quickly recycled by the backs to put the Cs hooker (now loitering out on the wing) through. With Chris claiming the ball from the restart it wasn't long before we were back on the March line and pressing again.
The pressure from our scrum was also starting to tell, with Tozer and Jonny causing all sorts of issues for the March scrum which began retreating rapidly. From a defensive scrum on Marchs own 5m Dean made a menace of himself (as he did all game) disrupting the 8 pick and snaffling the ball over the line to claim his first. At some point Tim also managed to sneak over for a second and Cantabs faced the very real possibility of Tim securing a first ever hatrick.
With a rosy complexion to the score at half time, Laurence reminded the team that we needed to keep our structure that had served us so well and not force it. Half time changes saw Jake on for Chris, with Laurence moving into the engine room, and Guns filling in at scrum half, whilst Dean relieved Fin on the wing.
Our first (and only) kick off was effectively chased and pressurised and, when ball came back on the Cantabs side, Drew and Puds were stepping all over the shop and finding holes for our support runners. Drew's line back inside found Laurence who was then able to offload in the tackle to Euan who ran in under the posts. This was to be his last act of the game, as Lovett came on in his place. It took a few moments for Lovett to find his kicking boots after a few weeks off, first with a penalty missing touch and then rather embarrassingly with a simple nudge to the corner from 15m out going out over the dead ball line. However he soon got into the swing of it, picking out passes all along the back line.
With Josh acting as a second fly half in attack we had options either side of the breakdown and were able to exploit the blindside with great effect allowing Fin (now back on for Craig to claim his second). Then, Cantabs saw a moment of magic as the ball was shipped across the back line on the Cantabs 22 to find Tim out on the wing to trot majestically in for his third!!! Celebrations were short lived however as the ref called play back for a forward pass in the build-up. Dave however, on the back of the solid Cantabs scrum was soon able to score his third and fourth.
Final play of the game presented Lovett, with the score at 98-0, the opportunity to take the 2s into triple digits but the kick drifted across the face of the posts. All in all, an excellent performance across the team and a 5 point win which takes us within 2 points of Haverhill in second with a game in hand. Next week sees the 2s away at Saffron Walden followed by a Home clash with top of the table Bury.
Man of the Match
Lots of good performances but it has to go to Tim, who came within inches of scoring his first Cantabs hat-trick.
Dick of the Day
Fewer nominations for this but for missing the touch line from 10m away it has to go to Lovett (even if we did score off of the resulting scrum) with Josh a close second for missing a sitter in front of the posts
O'Neill (4), James (2) Schmidt (2), Wilson (2), Fitzmaurice (2), Wilder, Rands, Tozer, Pudney
Wilder (3), Schmidt (2), Lovett (4)