Three changes in the Cantabs starting XV for this encounter with league leaders Diss. Pete Collins was in at 2nd row for Shed, David Bloxsum replaced Jonny Regan on the wing, and Nick Denham was back at fullback. Diss, the title favourites had only lost one game so far and Cantabs came to this one on the back of four league wins; so a good game was anticipated. The wind had a chilly edge, but otherwise the day was bright and the pitch in good condition.
Diss kicked off towards the clubhouse with the wind at their backs and Cantabs had five phases of play before the first scrum on the Diss ten metre line. Bloxsum was the first to show serious intent down the left but he was tackled into touch. The next scrum drew a penalty for Cantabs 30m out and Perksy called James Hayward forward for the kick at goal. The kick was good, and Cantabs gained first blood after 4 minutes; 3 - 0.
Diss were not behind for long. Hipwell, their ex Cambridge No 8, set off from our ten metre line down the right, broke through two tackles and gaining momentum steam-rolled his way passed two more attempted tackles to score in the right hand corner. Diss ahead now at 3 - 5 after nine minutes.
Jonnie Heaver showed the way back, winning two rucks in succession, and Cantabs were looking sharp as they threw the ball about in attempting to make in-roads. The Diss defence was stretched several times but somehow kept us at bay. Cantabs were then caught off-side, a problem that would continue throughout the match. The Diss No 10 elected to kick for goal from a central position 30m out;
3 - 8 against the run of play with quarter of an hour gone.
The Cantabs scrum then put Diss under enormous pressure, forcing the penalty yet again. This time we were closer and again Hayward made no mistake; 6 - 8. Diss then were straight back into our 22, with a long restart kick. Our No 10 kicked clear, the ball was held up in the wind, and fell into the arms of their Kiwi outside centre. He gathered pace, jinking past four Cantabs tacklers who failed to get close, and with a huge dive touched down under the posts. No problem for the Diss flyhalf and the visitors were clear at 6 - 15 after just 24 minutes.
Cantabs continued to win the rucks, Jamie was winning a good number of their lineouts and our scrum was irrepressible, but with some astute kicking from their flyhalf, aided by the wind, all our pressure came to nothing. One such occasion, saw us take the ball just 10m from our try line, and this time Hayward elected to pass. Phase after phase moved the ball all the way into the Diss 22, and Hayward's kick to Bloxy on the wing forced the Diss defender to kick the ball into touch, Diss defended the 5m lineout well and kicked clear. The Cantabs tried to run the ball back again, but were caught isolated by the Diss pack and from the resulting ruck the ball was smuggled back to their young scrum half. He saw the gap, beat three Cantabs defenders and scored their third try close to the posts. Again no mistake from their flyhalf; 6 - 22. Three very individual tries, three breakaways against the run of play, and Cantabs were looking beaten at this point.
Again, Cantabs tried to play their way back into the game but the final killer pass was invariably just not on the money. Right on half time yet another offside decision, gave Diss the chance to add three further points, but the kick from close to half way fell short. Halftime, and Glen called the lads back into the changing room for a few words of wisdom.
No change to the Cantabs side as the second half started. Their No. 8 caught the restart kick and bludgeoned his way up to the Diss 10m line before we could halt his progress. Cantabs won the ball back and Perksy and Isaia used their power to make good progress, again Cantabs were holding onto possession well and when James found touch, Diss were defending a lineout on the 5m line. Cantabs yet again won possession, and Diss then had to defend their line from a scrum on 5m. We took the ball against the head, Richard moved the ball out and suddenly we were through on the blindside to score in the left hand corner. I thought it was Bloxy, but someone will correct me I am sure! The conversion kick from the touchline was struck beautifully by James; 13 - 22.
Charlie caught the restart kick, and was penalised for miss-use of the shoulder as he stormed forward, somewhat harshly we thought. Diss went for goal from over 30m out against the wind, but the kick dropped short. We attempted to break away from out own red zone, lost possession, and were then caught off-side. No mistake from the resulting penalty; 13 - 25.
Cantabs took the attack straight back to Diss, this time our No 8, Jamie Williams showed some real purpose as he forced his way through the centre. We drew the penalty and elected for the scrum 15m out, and it was Jamie again who picked up at the base and he beat two tackles and stretched out to score at the posts. Hayward's conversion made it 20 - 25, and Cantabs were back in the match.
It was Diss who now were defending as wave after wave of Cantabs attacks went close. We then lost Dean for 10 minutes as our aggressive blindside flanker was adjudged just a mite too aggressive. They went for goal with the kick, but pushed it wide from 30m out with ten minutes to normal time. James Balfe took over from Pete Collins at second row, but there was no apparent loss of power at the scrums, where Cantabs continued to dominate. Cantabs again were far too good in the ruck and maul and won possession time and time again as the clock ran down. More changes to our personnel; with Ryan and Euan also joining the fray.
Cantabs then looked to have lost the game, Diss were awarded a penalty just outside our 22, to the left of the posts, with very little time left on the clock. Their flyhalf could have put it in the corner and tied us up. Instead he elected for goal, and missed!
We kicked to touch, and for the umpteenth time, Jamie won the ball. Only a minute to go and we went through the phases again, Perksy, Finn, Jamie, Drew, all kept possession as our forwards were up in support at the ruck. Time and again we expected James to break through with one of his darting runs, but he was patient as the ball was moved from left to right and back again. We inched further forward. Then, from a tapped penalty with no time left, Perksy made ten metres up to their 5m line with a typical burst. We recycled yet again, this time to the blindside. Finally into the hands of Francois, who despite a high tackle, forced his way forward, and made the score in the corner. Cue great jubilation from the Cantabs supporters. The conversion kick was just too much for James this time. Last action of the game and the final whistle went with the game tied up at 25 - 25.
So, two points each which meant Cantabs drop down to fourth in the table and Diss down to second. A great match played in good spirit and probably a fair result in the end. Cantabs again showed great determination and fitness in the second half. Both clubs will be thereabouts at the end of the season on this showing. Very difficult to choose a man of the match when everyone played well. I think our front row kept us in with a chance throughout, and some great forward play at the rucks and mauls. So this week I give it to the pack.
No game next week as we are out of the Intermediate Cup; and this will give the lads a chance to recharge the batteries and work on their game in training.