Cantabs opponents were Rochford Hundred, who had averaged nearly 70 points a game from the start of the season and were heading the division. Rochford had acquired the services of the Southend coach and their pack in the close season and were clearly looking to leapfrog their local rivals in a quest for rugby glory.
Cantabs on their part had a raft of youngsters making their first start for the 1st XV: Danny Richards at blindside, Toby Stockley at No 8, Matthew Houlden on the left wing and Ollie Blackmuir at outside centre. Another, Rob Thomas made the bench. Ollie Townsend was in at fly-half in James Hayward's absence.
Rochford kicked off down the slope and Cantabs were soon defending. The first score went to the home side when despite our attempts to halt him the right winger made the corner; 5 - 0 after just two minutes play. The second try soon followed. Ollie tried to kick clear, was tackled as the ball was in the air, he missed his kick and they ran through to score under the posts; 12 - 0.
Their lanky 2nd rows were dominating the loose but a good catch on our 22, from their No 5 at a lineout was moved rapidly over to the right wing in three passes, where he again went close. Rochford won a penalty and their five metre lineout was caught by the same player, and the drive took them over for try number three. A very good conversion from their inside centre made it 19 - 0. Shane Rea departed the game with a sore lower back, was replaced by Ben Tozer and took no further part in the game after just 12 minutes.
The first scrum of the match saw their back-row man run diagonally across our defence and then cut inside to score close to the posts; 24 - 0. Our restart kick was caught and the return kick to the left was on the button for their winger racing through, and he scored cutting inside, close to the posts; 31 - 0.
Rochford went close again but good defending under our own posts forced the error and our scrum was good enough. Cantabs ran the ball out of defence finally and some neat inter-passing brought us up to halfway. We won a penalty, Ollie Townsend took a tap and jinked his way forward, he got the ball away to the left and two passes later Matt Houlden was racing clear to score under the posts. Sadly, the conversion rapped the upright, but Cantabs were on the board at 31 - 5.
Cantabs then put together another great move down the left and again Houlden went close. However, the home side came back at us with powerful runners finally creating the space down the right and despite some valiant tackling they scored again to make it 38 - 5 at half-time. Houlden took a bad knock and left the field, with Natt Higginbotham brought on.
Rob Thomas also came on a half time, Nat going to 2nd row with Pete Collins moving to the flank. Cantabs started brightly and had a good five minutes. But, it was not long before the ball moved out to the Rochford left wing and their man went through and round two attempts to tackle him to score; 43 - 5.
Our restart kick went high, was caught by their No 11 and he ran back at speed, beating all attempts to get close to him, to score under the posts; 50 - 5. A further try went to the Essex men when a strong scrum gave their outside centre a chance to race around our defence to score yet another try and the scoreboard was up to 57 - 5.
Cantabs were next to score! Nick found touch just inside their 22 on the left with a penalty. Pete Collins caught the lineout and we set up the drive. This moved forward and when it appeared to stall Richard Knight added his presence at the back and the drive recommenced to such good effect that Rochford could not halt the progress. Finally, there was a heap of players over the Rochford line and our scrum half was last up with the ball. Nick's kick went close from the touchline, but we had something to celebrate at 57 - 10.
Their restart kick was caught by Tom Bailey, and Richard Knight enlivened by his try, shot through the Rochford line of defenders to set up another attack. Cantabs were now gaining confidence and throwing the ball about to try and find the gaps. But inevitably the Rochford strength and speed at the ruck won the ball back.
Cantabs won a scrum against the head, drew the penalty and Nick went for the left hand corner again. But this time Rochford took the lineout. Cantabs came again with a great break from Adam Fastnedge but the support was not there and that was Adam's last real contribution as he went off with a pulled hamstring shortly afterwards. Jonny Heaver, having had a short break from the action, replaced Isaia in the front row and continued to provoke the opposition, as he had done throughout the game!
Cantabs were enjoying their best spell but inevitably the tenth try came when our attack broke down; a high kick ahead was met by the winger who rounded our defence to score; 62 - 10. Cantabs did not give up to their credit and tried time and again to pass their way out of their own half. After five minutes of inter-passing and good defence, we finally cracked again and Rochford rounded off the scoring with their eleventh try, which was converted to bring the match to a close at 69 - 10.
Some promising debuts for Cantabs, but against a far more powerful and experienced side, there was only going to be one winner. For the Rochford players it was their fourth bonus win and their fourth bonus pay packet. For Cantabs, it was back to the real world of amateur rugby and the struggle for league points. To their credit the Cantabs players never gave up and will come out of this game stronger and wiser. Lots of good performances, Richard Knight was my man of the match, but there were many that ran him close and lots of youngsters who will have gained valuable experience. It will take a very good side to win against Rochford, who are already planning for London 1.