Cantabs 2s traveled to local rivals Shelford this week in an encounter that pitched 2nd against 3rd in the league. 2 Changes in the packs saw the 2s welcome back Sam Howes into the front row and Joe Allison slot in at no8, with Mike Denman appearing on the bench after a good showing with the 3s last weekend. A reshuffle in the backs saw Jonny and Thom pair up in the centres outside Lovett while a new back 3 combination saw Chris Kelly and the Wilson brothers combine. After last weeks strong performance against Haverhill the 2s were ready and eager for what was anticipated to be a strongly contested game.
With a strong wind blowing the length of the pitch this looked set to influence play and Cantabs elected to use the wind to their advantage in the first half. Its impact was instantly realised as the Shelford kick off was put high and, caught by the wind, failed to make the 10m line, Cantabs scrum.
With the front row laying down a solid platform off of the scrum Cantabs attacked with the wind, using the breeze to put pressure on the Shelford line. Eventually pressure paid dividends with Joe crossing on the left after a period of strong pressure and good support, no conversion but Cantabs ahead 5-0.
The second score came shortly afterwards as another kick off failed to make the 10m. Josh shipped the ball down the blindside to Fin who broke through the line, drew the fullback and offloaded back inside to Laurence in support for the skipper to run in under the posts to give Lovett an easier kick at goal, he made no mistake to put the scores at 12-0.
Sam had to take a short break for blood, with Denman coming on in his place, both of them having a strong game in both attack and defence. Cantabs were threatening up the flanks now, with Joe linking up with the backs well and despite some sloppy handling when offloads went to hand Jonny and Skid were making strong progress in the midfield. Tries followed for Fergus and Joe (adding his second), taking the score to 24-0 and the bonus point secured. Cantabs continued to press, looking to make the most of the wind behind us before the break. Fergus cut a line back inside off of the scrum and looked to spread the ball wide. His pass was telegraphed by the Shelford 13 who plucked it from the air and looked set to run in under the posts, but not before Fergus had been upended by a late tip tackle under the referees nose. The yellow card was brandished and Cantabs had got out of jail.
Scrums went to uncontested as Shelford couldnt provide front row cover. The final attack of the half saw Cantabs pressurising the Shelford right wing, who managed to gather a bobbling ball and looked up to see 4 Cantabs player streaming towards him and elected to pass the ball straight into touch. Despite protestations the half was called.
Despite having built a strong lead Cantabs were playing at nowhere near their best, we knew that the conditions would be against us in the second and defence was key. The efforts to turnover ball at the breakdown were being penalised across the park and so the brief was made to ice the breakdown and steady our line.
Having learnt from Shelfords mistakes Lovett drilled the ball low from the kick off and Cantabs were able to pressurise. On a number of occasions Shelford failed to put boot to ball to relieve the pressure, electing to use their tight runners. The Cantabs line was working well with good line speed but a string of penalties for not being behind the back foot saw Cantabs penalised and moved into their own half. Strong running from the Shelford hooker saw him sneak through the line to open his teams account 24-5.
Changes were made with Jake coming on for Dan and Rich on for Ed, who had both had excellent games tackilng everthing that came down their channels. Cantabs were not done and Chris Kelly made his way over the line on the left, Joe then rounded off his hatrick after the ref declared not held and he was able to scamper over to take the score to 34-5.
Another series of tight drives and penalties saw Shelford sneak in again, this time converted to take the score to 34-12 before a sequence of passes in the Cantabs half saw Chris Kelly released down the centre who shipped the ball to Fergus who looked set to have the legs to go all the way. He was dragged down a foot short but Cantabs supporters were there first and Rich touched the ball down (no that it mattered, the Ref had already elected to award the try, it was a long way to run).
The final plays of the game saw Cantabs threatening to break through again and a 5m scrum was taken down the blindside by Rich but the ball spilled in the tackle and was scooped up by the Shelford captain, who ran the length of the pitch for a consolation score. Final score 39-17 and another win for Cantabs. It was certainly not champagne rugby and there are a number of things to work on for next week when we entertain Cambridge in the cup.
MOTM, some good performances, the backs got through a lot of work in tricky conditions and it was great to see Fergus and Chris slot in seamlessly, However Joe Allison had a cracker in the lineout and linking up with the backs, bagging himself 3 tries in the process, and so is this weeks MOTM
DOTD, scored a hatrick and didnt get a jug, Joe Allison
Cantabs 39 (24)
Tries (7) Allison (3), Jones, Fergus Wilson, Ford, Kelly,
Conversions (2) Lovett (2)
Shelford 17 (0)
Tries (3), Conversions (1)