Although Cantabs had inflicted the only defeat on Romford & Gidea Park in the away fixture, a tough game was envisaged with the winner probably sealing 3rd in the Division. Cantabs had Richard Knight and Jamie Williams back, but Francois Eve had not recovered from a shoulder injury, so Xaver Touschek took over on the right wing.
As Romford kicked off towards the railway it was a shirt-sleave day with no wind and perfect conditions for running rugby. The early pressure came from Cantabs and a couple of penalties brought play to a five metre lineout on the right. Dean James went for the line but was repelled, Shed picked up the recycled ball but was knocked back by some very aggressive defence. The chance had gone and when the ball was recycled to the backs, Romford allowed us no space at all to get the ball wide.
Romford were just about coping with our scrum, but their forwards were certainly up for the fight in the loose, rampaging forward to deny our backs decent space. Bloxsum had a couple of jinking runs which threatened, but otherwise all our attempts to attack were met with obdurate defence.
Romford fought their way into our half after ten minutes, their maul doing the job. The just about hung on at their scrum and their big men, blasting through poor tackling, combined to score at the posts. Cantabs were now aware, if there was ever a doubt, that this game was not going to be easy; 0 - 7 to Romford.
Romford were now on top and their next meaningful attack saw a grubber kick to the corner strike the flag and go out for a throw. There was an extended break whilst their loose head prop had his ankle strapped. Jamie took the throw, the maul did its job, Richard Knight fought his way through the line, and when the ball came back to James Hayward the defence were up on him very quickly. James chipped over them, picked up the ball at our 22, and ran at the Romford backs. His pass found the flying Bloxy on his left and our winger out-paced everyone to score under the posts. James converted to level the scores at 7 - 7.
Romford came straight back at Cantabs with their big runners knocking holes in our centre. The maul formed and Cantabs had no answer. Romford shifted the ball to the right and scored in the corner. Their kicker hit the conversion perfectly to make it 7 - 14.
Romford were still denying us space and twice we were penalised for crossing as Richard tried to wriggle his way around a sea of Romford forwards. Cantabs scrum now had its best period with their loose head limping off. Twice we won against the head, and when Romford were penalised at the next scrum that broke up, Perksy elected for a scrum. the ball was moved to the left and Bloxsum ran in unopposed to score in the corner. This time the angle defeated James' conversion kick, but we closed in at 12 - 14.
Romford ran at us again through the middle, but this time their 2nd row was isolated and did not release. James kicked us back up to the 22. We won the lineout and shifted the ball wide. Alex Faed cut through the defence and it took a great tackle to deny him the try, just a metre out. He held on too long and was penalised. The Romford kick did not find touch and when we ran the ball back, the Romford pack were caught off-side. James kicked to the corner, Jamie won the lineout and Perksy went for the try. A 5m scrum to the opposition resulted. Cantabs took the ball against the head, but somehow contrived miss out. However, Romford had been penalised and Perksy again opted for a scrum. Text book try resulted with Jamie Williams taking the honours. This time James' kick was on the money; 19 - 14, Cantabs ahead for the first time.
At this stage it was all Cantabs, another kick ahead from James for his left winger just faded into touch at the corner flag. That one came to nothing, but at half time Cantabs were on the ascendancy.
No changes from Cantabs at half time, but for Romford their iconic loose head resumed, limping from scrum to scrum, but certainly doing the job in their front row to halt our progress at the set piece. Twice he contrived to con Sir into awarding penalties against Isaia, and slowly but surely Romford started to get back into the game. Romford were again up on our backs very quickly, and occasionally getting caught offside, but generally getting away with it. Cantabs were certainly not coping with their aggression and the only way was to get the ball wide. Sure enough, Bloxsum had another chance to break free but the last man tackled him into touch.
Romford were inching there way forward with a drives through the middle and yet another one of our scrums was pinged. Romford nearly got through but the last man knocked on right under our posts with the try line beckoning. Cantabs just about held the scrum and with Romford caught offside, at last, Glen made the changes. Drew came on for Alex and Ollie Lewis for James Balfe.
Next try was to Cantabs, against the run of play and gave Bloxy his hat trick. The ball was shifted out to the left, and from the half way line our left winger went for the line racing past three defenders to score in the corner. There were unseemly demands to Sir from their defenders that he had put a foot in touch, but to his credit their linesman was on hand to deny this gamesmanship. Fourth try, the bonus point gained, and Cantabs and were seemingly home and dry at 24 - 14. Isaia was rested and Ben Tozer took over against their wily old loose head.
Romford held onto their scrum, their big runner took over and our tackling was again not good enough, he scored to the right of the posts virtually unopposed. This one was certainly kickable, but Romford bench were so busy celebrating that they forgot to get the tee to their man. He could not wait and his attempted drop kick conversion faded just past the right hand post; 24 - 19 and it was game on again.
Romford were now rampant and certainly on top. Again they ran at us through the middle, but when the move went out to the right, we were able to tackle man and ball into touch. Cantabs won the line out deep inside their 22, but Romford stole the ball and attacked again. Play was halted 5m out when they knocked on. Cantabs had to defend their line with our put in; still in the right hand corner. We won the scrum, but fumbled the ball at the back of the scrum, their flanker was on hand to dive over our man and touch down. Scores were level at 24 - 24. The conversion missed, and with two minutes to go, we just had to get in the Romford half.
We got the chance to win the game, Romford penalised for offside. James went for the penalty kick from about 38m out, but it was not to be, and when we knocked on a minute later Sir called time.
So, we are now down to the last series of matches next week. Cantabs are 4 points ahead of Romford. They are at home to Woodford and would be expected to win. Cantabs therefore need just one point from their trip to Old Cooperians to retain third place.