For this game against old rivals Norwich, Cantabs welcomed back James Hayward at No 10 and Isaia Barbieri at prop. Also back in the squad were Jonny Heaver, Dean James and Richard Knight. The latter was still sporting serious bandaging to his hand after sustaining a fractured finger in training three weeks ago; and started on the bench. Norwich had won well against Chelmsford the previous week and a tough game was expected.
A torrential downpour delayed the kick-off by five minutes and the surface was very slippery at kick off. Shane Rea caught the Norwich drop-out and managed to present the ball to Xaver. He shifted the ball to his fly-half who kicked high. Norwich spilled the greasy ball and it was snaffled by our backs. The ball was moved to the right and winger Jim Bryant finding himself in space, made ground and then kicked ahead. James Hayward started the race in second place but overhauled the Norwich defender to just touch down first to the right of the posts. James converted his own try and after just two minutes Cantabs were 7 - 0.
Cantabs held on to their first two scrums but Norwich with their more direct running were looking the more dangerous of the two sides. Cantabs progress when we won the ball in the backs was more ponderous. After just ten minutes play, Cantabs were forced to make their first substitution; Finn Morrison forced off with a shoulder injury and replaced by Dean James. Cantabs were again stretched by the Norwich runners and having been caught off-side in our own 22, had to concede a penalty 15m from the posts; duly kicked to make it 7 - 3.
Cantabs forced their way into the Norwich half a couple of times with well struck penalties, but both times the lineout was lost and Norwich were quick to take advantage and bring play back into our half. Norwich went close with a well placed kick to the right hand corner but a blue and white shirt was first to touch down under pressure. Cantabs were defending well and Norwich spoiling a lot of good possession with poor handling. Cantabs made a great break through Nick Denham, but the man on his shoulder cut inside and Nick looked for him outside. Some good rucking from the Norfolk men won them back possession and the chance was gone. James Hayward chipped through but again Norwich were up to the job and soon moved the ball back into our 22 with direct running. James then took a break as his ankle injury had not fully recovered, bringing Richard Knight into scrum half and Xaver moved to fly-half. Shane Rea also took a break to bring Michael Pedder into the front row. He moved to hooker and Tom Bailey across to tight head.
The changes seemed to make little difference and we probably enjoyed our best spell. Jonny Heaver started the next move with a quick lineout in his own half. Richard Knight went on one of his jinking runs, beating two tacklers and moved the ball right. However, play broke down and Norwich cleared the danger when we were forced into touch on the right. Cantabs were now moving the ball well at the end of the half and won a penalty centrally 30m out. Nick Denham hit the ball perfectly and Cantabs finished the half ahead at 10 - 3. It must be said the score somewhat flattered us.
James Hayward rejoined the action at half time, and the half started in torrential rain. The first decent attack was created by Nick Denham with a beautiful kick which found touch inside the Norwich 22 on the right, but again the lineout was not accurate and Norwich cleared the danger again. From that point it was Norwich doing all the attacking towards the railway and Cantabs defending bravely. The onslaught continued but eventually the break came down the middle, the Cantabs tacklers were for once lacking and Norwich broke to score under the posts. The conversion was a formality; 10 - 10.
Norwich continued to attack and Cantabs held firm for a good quarter of an hour. Finally the defences were breached when the ball was moved to the right and their winger went in unopposed to score in the corner; a great conversion making the score 10 - 17.
Cantabs continued to defend but inevitably Norwich ran out worthy winners following two further tries; one in each corner, to finish the game at 10 - 27. For the last quarter there were several Cantabs out on their feet and Norwich were clearly the fitter and stronger in the last quarter.
Cantabs have some big problems to iron out but have the chance to make amends next week with a bottom of the table clash against Chelmsford who have lost badly in their first two games.
Jonny Heaver was nominated man of the match for Cantabs.