Cantabs were still recovering from a hiding against Diss the previous weak and with playmaker James Hayward taking a break and without captain Jon Perks and Jamie Williams, it was all change again for this encounter against fourth oldest rugby club in the world, Ipswich.
Dean James reverted to his old slot of scrum half and to partner him at half-back in came Ollie Townsend for his first ever start in the 1st XV. Dave O'Neill was also making his season's debut at No 8.
As Cantabs kicked off towards the railway, the day had turned out to be ideal for rugby, with most of the crowd leaving coats behind. The teams were attired in strangely similar colours and it seemed at times that opponents were passing to one another - most confusing for my old eyes. Ipswich though made all the early running and when the first scrum came we were defending on our 22. Charlie took an early knock but survived to tell the tale. Ipswich continued to press for the first ten minutes and got their just reward with a penalty on the edge of our 22 which was converted with ease; 0 - 3.
Ipswich continued to attack and when Ollie Townsend was forced over our try line defending we faced a 5m scrum. Cantabs repelled that one and eventually ran the ball out. However a loose pass was intercepted on our ten metre line by their big No 8. He sliced through our defence and evaded Jonny Regan at full back to score a good try under the posts. Easy conversion and Cantabs were 0 - 10 after 22 minutes. The travelling Ipswich supporters were ecstatic and our lot very quiet.
Cantabs finally started to play and it was Bloxy who started the move with a jinking run on the right. Shed took over at the ruck and linked with Tom Bailey further left to finally get us into the opposition 22. James Balfe took a knock and a break bringing Nick Denham on and he immediately moved to scrum half releasing Dean to his preferred back row. Now Cantabs were showing up more and more in the Ipswich half and a couple of penalties pushed us well up the pitch. Shed elected to scrum and the pressure paid as their prop was sin-binned.
Cantabs kicked for the corner and lined up for the 5m scrum to follow. We were now in extra time, and at the second attempt to bring order to the proceedings, Sir had seen enough and awarded Cantabs with a penalty try which Nick Denham converted. That was the end of the half with Cantabs back in it at 7 - 10.
Glen had words of wisdom, obviously at the break. Somebody had the sense to bring out a change strip for Cantabs, so the blue and green replaced the blue and white, and suddenly all became clear to your correspondent and seemingly the team, because we immediately started to put some moves together. Some lovely inter-passing from forwards and backs eventually brought us up to the Ipswich 22; lovely hands and Ipswich had not touched the ball. The defence was drawn in and then the ball was shipped left by Ollie, and Francois was suddenly clear and ran around the defence to score at the posts. Easy game this, when you get it right. Nick converted and Cantabs were in the lead for the first time at 14 - 10.
We were now seeing a complete mirror image of the first half, with Cantabs dominating at the start just as Ipswich had done earlier. Ipswich apparently had seen enough; Cantabs were not going to have it all their own way. Their inside centre opened up a gap and passed out beautifully to the right, and the right winger hit the gas into our 22, linking up well to put his man in at the posts. The conversion brought Ipswich back into the lead at 14 - 17. One lapse and all the early pressure had been equalled out. Ipswich were restored to 15, and it was game on. Ben Tozer came on at prop for Charlie Searle, James Balfe was restored for Dave and Xaver joined the backs.
Cantabs found the corner with a penalty, awarded for a high tackle, Ipswich were depleted to 14 as their scrum half was yellowed. At the ensuing lineout Pete Collins caught, the maul formed and did its job. James Balfe was the hero at the bottom of the pile of bodies and claimed the try. No conversion from out wide on the left, but Cantabs had inched ahead again at 19 - 17.
With 20 minutes still to go, Ollie combined with Drew to get Xaver away on the left. He was almost clear but their No 8 was no slouch and brought him down ten metres out with a great saving tackle. The ball went into touch and from the Ipswich lineout, Jonny Heaver showed he had been watching the Italians last week as he stole the ball from an otherwise offside position when we did not compete. Cantabs went close when we shifted the ball to the right from a scrum in the left hand corner; Bloxy being tackled into touch a couple of metres short of the line. Ipswich kicked clear from the lineout but Bloxy caught well and stormed back at the Suffolk men, and again went close. Cantabs recycled and shifted the ball to the left, Francois made good ground, Regan went for glory but was held up over the line. 5m scrum to Cantabs, which was repelled despite huge hits from our big men. But when we got the ball back some 15m out, Shed showed the way with a telling drive for the line, and finally Pete Collins made the whitewash for our fourth try. Nick sorted the extras from out wide, and Cantabs were clear at 26 - 17, and a bonus point in the bag.
Ipswich were not done and won a penalty for offside. Some debate followed but they had to go for goal to get within a score of Cantabs, and their kicker duly obliged to make the score 26 - 20.
Cantabs played out the final minutes of the half relatively easily, and when time was up, kicked to touch to seal the win.
A poor first half was followed by a good second half from Cantabs. Ipswich showed a lot of fight for a team 3rd from bottom and to their credit pushed us all the way. This win gave us some breathing space in 3rd position. Man of the match was awarded to youngster Ollie Townsend - good to see another flyhalf coming through the ranks.
Wednesday night and the 1st XV are in action again. This time it is under lights at Shelford in the Cambs Cup semi-final. Kick-off is at 19.45. Come and support the lads against our old rivals.