We started off the new season where we finished the last at Old Cooperians. The Essex side had beaten us twice last season and with the Cantabs side fielding only four of the players who finished the match last season, a hard game was envisaged. Our half back pairing of Richard Knight and James Hayward were both injured and late holidays and weddings took care of Isaia Barbieri, Charlie Searle, Dean James and Jonny Heaver. Cantabs had not managed to find a warm-up game, so the travelling faithful feared the worst.
The danger man for Cantabs was the Coopers right winger who had scored a hat-trick against us in that last game.
Coopers kicked off into a stiff breeze and we also had the slope in our favour. In the very first attack, their fly half put a grubber kick out wide to the right and their winger opened his account with an unchallenged run cutting in to the posts; 7 - 0 after 3 minutes.
Our front row managed to hold onto the first scrum, and Cantabs pressed without making any serious in-roads. Finn Morrison, who had missed the second half of the previous campaign with a thumb fracture, was his usual aggressive self at the breakdown. Cantabs then had a sustained period in the opposition half and went close but knocked on right under the Coopers posts. The scrum was one by the home side, the ball shipped out to the right and their right winger ran the length of the field outpacing everyone, to score under the posts; 14 - 0.
Coopers pressed from the restart and we were soon defending our try line. Good rucking saved the day and we won a penalty. Nick Denham's kick failed to find touch and Coopers ran the ball straight back winning a penalty 25 metres out to the right of the posts. This was converted; 17 - 0 after 20 minutes. Shane Rea, having his first game in three seasons, took a break and Tom Bailey moved to tight head bringing new hooker Michael Pedder into the scrum.
Finn Morrison made a great break out to the right from halfway, and found Ollie Townsend in support, but his pass out to Jim Bryant evaded our winger. Cantabs won the ball back and moved play over to the left where Zandy Neasham went close, and forced a knock-on. Cantabs won good ball and drew a penalty 10m out. Nathan Davenport took a quick tap and went close, but dropped the ball. Play-on said Sir, and Tozer was quickest to react diving over for the try; 17 - 5. Reward for the territorial advantage we had fought hard for.
Xaver Touschek then had a great run down the right and kicked ahead into the 22, forcing the defender to hack the ball into touch. For the nth time we lost the lineout, the moved the ball wide to their right, but spilled the ball. However the right winger was first to the bouncing ball hacking it out of their 22. He gathered the ball after two more kicks and outpaced our defence to score under the posts for his hat-trick; 24 - 5.
Again Cantabs had all the possession and another great run down the right saw Jim Bryant get within a couple of metres before spilling the ball. From the scrum on their 5m line, Coopers again switched the ball to the right and their winger did the rest from his own 22. We just did not have the pace to match his running; 31 - 5.
Cantabs continued to press, the ball was intercepted by the right winger, who probably could have scored, but this time passed out to his full back, who scored in the corner; 36 - 5. No further score up to half time.
Shane rejoined the pack after his breather and Cantabs continued to try and throw the ball about. After ten minutes, Rich Ford came on for Pete Collins and Jonny Regan for Nick Denham. Cantabs now were enjoying their best spell and when Jonny Regan caught a high kick into our half and set up the next attack, Ford combined with Bailey who ran at Coopers defence, made the gap, shipped the ball wide to Bryant and was their to take the return, scoring to the right of the posts. The kick was converted by Adam Fastnedge; 36 - 12.
Good tackling kept Coopers off the score sheet and Cantabs moved the ball out with a good break from Townsend who got Touschek away on the right. We spilled the ball and Coopers hacked the ball out of their 22, and inevitably it went straight to their right winger, who kicked on twice more just out pacing Jonny Regan to dive over next to the posts. No justice after 15 minutes of Cantabs pressure, but the score was now 43 - 12.
The rain then started making the Cantabs faithful even more miserable. Regan caught another high clearing kick well and decided to run down the left wing with the ball, ran into their right winger, the ball fell loose, he gathered it and sprinted in for his sixth try! This one was in the corner but their full back still made no mistake; 50 - 12.
Coopers runners were now making Cantabs look ragged and the home side again went close. Finn Morrison won the ball on our try line, but illegally said Sir and he had a ten minute break.Nathan Davenport came on for Dave Evershed, and again Cantabs did all the pressing. But without direct runners finding the gaps, the passes were laboured and we tended to make very slow progress. Coopers just had to harass the ball carrier and wait for the mistakes. Our scrum was working well, but our lineouts were atrocious; I cannot remember a clean catch all afternoon. Again, Cantabs had by far the best of the territory as gradually Finn's yellow card expired, but chances to score were rare.
Cantabs were restored to full numbers before the next score came, but unfortunately it was Coopers again. This time it came from a scrum 15m out, with Cantabs defence ripped apart for the full back to score in the corner. He failed to convert his try. but there was still was time for their No 4 to burst through to go under the posts. Final score 62 - 12.
Next week the game against Norwich is preceded by a Railton BBQ. We need a good crowd on the touchline to encourage the lads!