Cantabs finally got their captain, Jon Perks, back for this one; albeit only on the bench. Both teams yet to register a win in the league, so a vital game for both sides. Jake Jones had been promoted from the 2nd XV for his first ever start. Finn Morrison was also back from injury.
The rain had stopped as Cantabs kicked off towards the railway, and all the early pressure came from Rochford. The early scrums also went the way of the visitors. After four minutes, Rochford had their first real chance to open their account with a penalty on the 22 but the kick went wide. Drew Tilley showed his tackling strength in the centre as Rochford again pushed for the breakthrough. The opposition flyhalf cleverly kicked to the right corner, a tactic he was to use throughout the match. Jamie was up for the lineout and was fouled in catching, so Cantabs were able to kick clear.
Two further difficult scrums saw Cantabs in disarray and Rochford drew the penalty on our 22 again. This time their man did not fail them; 0 - 3 after 10 minutes. Just two minutes later, Pudney then made the first clear break and when we recycled, James Hayward continued down the left, timed his pass immaculately to Drew in support. He scored to the left of the posts. No mistake from James and Cantabs moved ahead at 7 - 3.
Cantabs next attack was prompted by a lovely diagonal kick from Nick Denham. The ball slowed up close to the touchline forcing their defender to take it over. Rochford spoilt the lineout but our forwards were all over the defenders as they tried to clear. When the Rochford full back finally got a boot to the ball, Drew was up to charge down the kick, gather up the ball and scored to the right of the posts. James, again slotted the conversion; 14 - 3. Two chances and two tries with less than a quarter of the game gone. Rochford had enjoyed the bulk of the possession at this stage.
Finn Morrison was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle and with a man short Cantabs were soon back into their own 22. A loose ball at the lineout was hacked through by James and he was inches away from collecting an awkwardly bouncing ball. Cantabs finally got some reasonable possession at a scrum, with Isaia and Jonnie swapping sides up front. Richard Knight broke away on the blindside, linked with a rampaging James, who again timed his pass to Bloxy on the left. He ran in for the third try beating his defender at speed. Again James kicked the conversion, and Cantabs were humming at 21 - 3 after 30 minutes. Finn restored equality again, and Cantabs held out until half time; the score line was somewhat flattering although our defence had done its job well.
The Hundred started the second half just as they had started the first, attacking hard. Again their No 10 kicked to the corner from a penalty. Jamie almost stole the ball, but tipped it onto them instead. They caught the rebound, mauled well and finally broke through our blue line to register their first try. The conversion brought the score to 21 - 10 just five minutes into the half.
Perksy was then brought into the fray with Charlie taking a break and Jonnie moving to second row, and predictably we took the first scrum against the head; normal service resumed. We were awarded a couple of penalties and James brought play into the right hand corner, Jamie caught and Shed did the rest, scoring our bonus point try in the corner; 26 - 10. Jake Jones took a breather and James Balfe made his debut for the 1st XV at flanker.
Rochford then pressed hard again and enjoyed a five minute spell hammering away at our defence in and around our 22. Finally their prop made the vital break and they were in under the posts to make the game interesting; 26 - 17. Richard Knight came off for ice on his damaged ribs, Ollie Townsend moved onto the left wing, Nick moved to scrumhalf and Bloxy to full-back.
There was still 15 minutes left on the clock and an extended break ensued as their prop got a nasty crack to the temple, and unfortunately was too groggy to continue. All change for Cantabs; Isaia took a break with Charlie moving to prop, Richard went back on for Nick, and Jake replaced Jonnie. Then Rochford forced their way through yet again to score under the posts and bring the game to a tantalising 26 - 24. The Cantabs faithful feared the worst!
Then the turning point of the game. Their flyhalf put a kick through the middle, Bloxsum seemed to wait an eternity for the ball to dribble over our try line and he and their full-back appeared to touch down simultaneously. However, Sir was right on the spot and adjudged Bloxy's hand had got their first and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Cantabs immediately broke away through Pudney and we got the penalty at the breakdown. James recovered from a bad knock to hit the left hand corner, less than ten metres from their line. Jamie won the throw, Finn went for the line and was held up. They got the ball away but under huge pressure and Cantabs re-gathered on the 22. Cantabs went for the maul and again Jake got to within ten metres. Tom Bailey and Perksy combined to hit their line hard and Tom forced the Hundred back. The ball was recycled and Richard's pass found Bloxy with a metre of space on the left. Our flying winger needed no more, scoring the try in the corner to make it 31 - 24.
Rochford had not given up and pressed again, and with an element of relief, James kicked to touch to end the match. A thoroughly enjoyable game, probably more so as we won. All credit to the men from Rochford for forcing their way back into the game. Lots of heroes for Cantabs, Drew again showed his strength in the centre and got a brace of tries, so probably shaded man of the match for me. Good tackling in defence again from everyone and we are finally creeping up the table after our first win. Cantabs travel to Woodford next week and it is a long time since the Club made that journey; if ever?
Prior to the match there was a one minute silence, when all four teams stood in memory of Robin (Cherry) Ladds. When I joined the club in the early 1990s Geoff Cresswell was President, Ron (Grubby) Griggs was Chairman and Robin was General Secretary; sadly now all of them gone from us. Robin was always a proud Cantab and I was pleased that he could attend our 70th Anniversary match last May. He always watched games from the road side of the pitch and was delighted that the current Cantabrigians were slowly but surely putting the old Club back on the rugby map. God bless you Robin!