Cantabs entertained Ely 2s who have been on good form in recent weeks, beating Haverhill and pushing Bury close. A number of absentees for Cantabs gave the opportunity for a number of new faces, with 7 players making first appearances of the season for the 2s (including Tom on his first game back after a couple of seasons absence).
The reshuffled of the back line saw Josh take the reins at 10 with Cam and Alex outside him in the centres, with Tom, Harry and Ash operating in the Back three. The Cantabs pack had a comparatively settled feel, with Tim coming in to Hooker and Laurence shifting into the second row to make space for a back row of Pete, Dan and Joe.
Ely kicked off on the college pitch were the ball was gathered untidily by Cantabs and sustained Ely pressure continued to make life difficult for Cantabs. In the backs Ely were using their big runners out wide to good effect, with their number 13 causing Cantabs significant issues. It wasnt long before Cantabs found themselves back under their own posts as a couple of slipped tackles saw the Ely runners ghost through, and, with the conversion made good Ely were up 7-0.
Better pressure by Cantabs and great competition in the Lineout by Joe and Pete disrupting Ely possession well helped keep Ely at bay and for the first time in the match Cantabs were able to push out of there half. A couple of penalties later however, and Cantabs found themselves once again under pressure and defending their line. Another score out to the right for Ely and the conversion dropped just short, taking the score to 12-0.
Cantabs came back at Ely and seemed to really lift their game and for the first time were able to string together successive phases and pressure. Good pressure from the kick off contained Ely within their half and the pressure finally showed as Cantabs were awarded a penalty 25m out in front of the posts. Josh slotted the kick and Cantabs where on the board. 12-3
Cantabs continued to press, with Ed and Pete carrying well in midfield and Dan tackling like a demon. The support play to the rucks which had been poor for the first 20mins was suddenly much improved and continued phases took Cantabs ever closer to the Ely line. Pressure on the Ely lineout saw the ball taken back over their own line and dotted down, giving Cantabs a scrum on the 5m. The Cantabs pack rose to the occasion and a mighty 8 man drive pushed us over the line, only for the broken Ely 8 to disrupt the put down at the base. Cantabs where awarded a penalty but, with time up for the half were denied the opportunity to scrum again despite our dominance.
Tozer therefore took the tap and got close before the ball was spun out, again Cam going dangerously close but denied by resolute defence. Play was halted as the ref spotted foul play back in the left hand corner as Darren reacted to being kicked in the face with usual good grace. The half time whistle was blown and, worse news for Cantabs, Darren was shown a yellow card for his reaction.
With the score at 12-3 at half time Cantabs new that there was not much between the two teams and with a few select words from Will and Laurence Cantabs changed ends ready to right the wrongs of the first quarter.
Down to 14 men for the first 10 minutes of the Half the Cantabs defence was resolute, with Dan putting in hits all over the park and Joe finding success carrying the ball in the wider channels. In Darrens absence, Laurence moved into the unfamiliar front row but a strong response from the Cantabs 7 allowed us to maintain parity with the Ely 8. One drive even saw the Ely 8 disintegrate as Cantabs charged on, only for the ball to somehow end up retrieved by Ely. Strong running again from the Ely 13 saw then break again down the left and just make the line with the conversion taking the score to 19-3
Darren returned to the field to restore numbers and Luke and Matt joined in place of Rick (who had taken a knock to the head) and Harry. This lifted the team and we began to play with pace, recycling the ball quickly and using the hands to ship the ball into the wide Channels. Ed and Pete trucked the ball up in the middle before numbers appeared back on the right and went through the hands for Matt to sprint over for the corner, the conversion from out wide was off but Cantabs had broken the resolute Ely defence. 19-8
As Cantabs pressed again a loose ball at the lineout was gathered by Darren who was tackled awkwardly in significant pain and play was halted. With the decision made not to move him until medical assistance had arrived, the game was moved onto the 1st pitch for the final 15mins.
Rich came on in the back row and Laurence again linked up with Tozer and Tim. With Cantabs continuing to press a number of chances went begging as the final pass couldnt quite be found but Cantabs high paced game was opening up games across the pitch. We went close in the right corner but was denied after discussion with the touch judge with just a few minutes left on the clock. With the ball reclaimed on the 22 the ball was again swung right and this time no mistake as Tom crossed to take the score to 19-13. The kick went wide and with that the referee blew for time.
A disappointing result for Cantabs but no one could fault the commitment shown in the second half where the result we wanted came tantalisingly close at the end. We now have a week off over the Easter break to prepare and come back refreshed for the final games of the season and finish on a high.
Cantabs: 13 (3)
Penalties (1): Schmidt
Tries (2): Shepherd, Skelton
Ely: 19 (12)
MOTM: For an excellent game shackling the Ely attack all over the pitch, Dan Searle
DOTD: Darren Carew for his card (heel well buddy)