It was back down towards Southend for this trip to Rochford Hundred. A late withdrawal by David Evershed gave Nathan Davenport his first start. Lots more changes: Finn Morrison was back at openside, and Richard Knight and James Hayward resumed their partnership at halfback. Charlie Searle took over from the injured Tom Bailey at hooker and Alex Rayner returned on the right wing.
Rochford kicked off with the breeze and the slope to their advantage, and pressed hard initially. However, Cantabs weathered the early pressure and James Hayward made the first meaningful break with a typical burst from halfway, finding Alex Rayner on the outside and James was on hand for the return pass. He was tackled a couple of metres short of the try line, and was penalised for not releasing when the support came through to late.
Cantabs then had a penalty 25 metres out to the left of the posts, but our fly-half's kick missed the mark. Cantabs had now had a spell of nearly ten minutes in the opposition half and everything seemed to be going well. This was confirmed when James kicked over the defence, gathered the bouncing ball and scored at ease to the right of the posts. He missed the conversion; but not to worry as we were well on top; 0 - 5.
Rochford had other ideas, their backs started to run straight to great effect and three times we were stretched. We were pinged for offside, their man kicked for the corner. Too accurate, he hit and it bounced back into play. Bloxsumm was first to the ball and somehow jinked past 5 tacklers to run from his try line out of the 22 before he was collared.
Cantabs then had another golden chance to score when Finn got away down the left but his pass to Bloxy was short and adjudged forward with the line at our mercy. Then the wheels seemed to come off. Rochford started to master our scrum, and their fly-half ran and kicked them back into the game. He found the corner, we threw crookedly and Rochford were now pressing hard. We were penalised at the next scrum inside our own 22, they kicked for goal, and missed with the ball dropping short of the posts. We had to try and run the ball out under severe pressure. Hayward just about cleared the danger but we were still on the back foot and were caught offside. This time Rochford went for the corner; the lineout was thrown long and their maul formed. Cantabs were up to the danger too late and Rochford forwards made the score; 5 - 5, with 30 minutes gone. To add to the problems for Cantabs we were down to 14 men as Jonny Heaver got yellow for pulling down the next maul.
Rochford were now on their running game and our tackling at times was woeful. A strong run from their centre found the gap, the ball shifted to the right and their right winger was able to run around our defence to score at will, close to the posts. The conversion followed to make it 12 - 5.
Rochford had yet another chance with their favourite long throw and maul in the corner, Cantabs managed to clear, but all James could do was find touch to end the half.
No changes to the Cantabs team at half time, but Rochford were again quicker onto their game and were soon running the ball at us again, as their scrum-half took the restart kick on his 22, and managed to jink his way right up to our 22. Cantabs were penalised and from the penalty, they ran it again, stretching our defence both ways before scoring their third try to the right of the posts. This time the conversion kick rapped the left hand post and stayed out, but Cantabs were up against it at 17 - 5.
Now Rochford seemed to have mastered our scrum, their long throws were a constant threat and their hard running backs were pulling us all over the place. Cantabs were compounding the problems with poor tackling and rucking and it was hard to understand how we could have gone 9 league games undefeated up to Christmas.
Cantabs did get up to the Rochford 22, won the scrum but were penalised and Rochford just kept running at us. Glen brought on Dan Searle, Xaver Touschek and James Balfe, Jamie Williams moved to second row for Nathan and Pete Collins joined him, replacing Jonny. Dan Searle went to No 8 and James Balfe to blindside. However, Rochford took all the changes in their stride and continued to run at us at every opportunity.
Cantabs kicked to the right hand corner but knocked on in the drive for the line. We won back the ball on their scrum when they were forced to touchdown, but our 5m scrum was again penalised and the danger passed. Nothing was going right for Cantabs now, our tackling did not improve. We were caught offside for the umpteenth time, they took a tap and made space on the right, allowing their inside centre to skip past two tackles and score their bonus point try to the right of the posts. The conversion again hit the left hand post, but this time went over; 24 - 5.
Cantabs tried to get back in the game, Perksy tried to use his power to make headway, but was adjudged to hand-off illegally and lost the last five minutes of the game. With his departure, all the fight seemed to go out of Cantabs, and the game finished in and around our 22. No further scores.
So where has it all gone wrong? We have started both of the last two games well, but in this one Rochford managed to disrupt our front row, and our scrummaging domination disappeared. Their strategy of using the long throw to bypass our front five also worked well. But, most serious problem seems to be our poor tackling and rucking, perhaps we came into the New Year thinking we had cracked it after a great sequence of wins last year. We now have two weeks to put it right before Woodford come to Sedley Taylor Road.