Epping Upper Clapton had arrived early after the short trip up the M11 and the match was vital to find out which of the two teams could drag themselves to the safety of mid-table. Only two changes to Cantabs starting XV: Nick Denham and Matt Houlden were unavailable and were replaced by Jonnie Regan and Adam Fastnedge.
Epping kicked off towards the railway and in early exchanges Epping appeared the quicker to the breakdown. After five minutes Cantabs had yet to break into the opposition half. Cantabs were holding on to the early scrums but the bigger Epping forwards were doing all the threatening. Then against the run of play, suddenly James Hayward intercepted a loose pass and raced from just inside our half outpacing the defenders to score under the posts; 7 - 0 after fourteen minutes.
Cantabs were penalised for not releasing in the tackle, Epping found the corner and their lineout was secured. Cantabs managed to withstand the onslaught from the Epping forwards and eventually kicked clear. Next close call to adding points was a second interception by Hayward. But this time he was forced wide and the Epping full-back did a good job to shepherd James into touch just inside their 22.
Then with Cantabs finally starting to make in-roads and our backs coming more into the game, Epping snatched a lofted Cantabs pass and their full-back scythed through the middle of our line to run clear and score under the posts; 7 - 7.
The restart kick failed to go 10m, Epping just about held onto the scrum and found touch in the left hand corner. Their ever reliable lineout did its job and Cantabs were defending again. We appeared to have weathered the initial storm but Epping moved the ball smartly to the left again and scored in the corner. Their full-back lined up the kick, and hit a superb conversion; 7 -14 with 31 minutes on the clock.
Michael Pedder came on at hooker with Tom moving to tight head, replacing Shane Rea. Cantabs enjoyed a good spell in the Epping half, going close after a good crossfield kick to touch by Jonnie Regan, and when they drew the penalty ten metres out, Hayward slotted the kick to make the score 10 - 14.
The next big break came from the Epping No 8 who had looked threatening throughout the game. He burst through our defence and was halted ten metres out from our line. They recycled the ball quickly and Cantabs defence was not quick enough to stop the try, close to the posts; 10 - 21 and half time.
Shane was restored to the pack after half time when the first scrum was called, with Tom returning to hooker. Toby Stockley was withdrawn and Harry Wilson joined the back row.He did not last too long as in the first Epping attack he was adjudged to have tackled illegally and received a yellow card. Epping chose the scrum just ten metres out from our line. Three times Cantabs defended this well, but on the third reset Epping switched the ball out to the left and scored out wide; 10 - 26.
Tom went off injured and Michael Pedder rejoined the game. Then Cantabs problems went from bad to worse as Jonnie Heaver was also yellow carded. Epping took the penalty this time and the score moved to 10 - 29. Toby Stockley returned to the fray and immediately looked threatening. He and James Hayward combined well, and despite the inequality in numbers, Cantabs had their best attacking spell. Stockley set off on one of his trademark runs weaving through the defence but was tackled ten metres short of the try line. Cantabs continued to attack and this time Stockley was not to be denied, running in at the posts from 20m out; 17 - 29.
Cantabs were restored to the full fifteen but it was Epping who finished the game on the offensive. Three times they were denied tries on the left as they were either held up over the line or spilled the chance forward. Our scrum was pleased to hear the final whistle and Epping deservedly took the five points.
For Cantabs, on this showing it will not be too soon when our injured quartet of Isaia Barbieri, Dean James, Finn Morrison and David Evershed get back to bolster the pack. Cantabs slipped to third from bottom in the division with this defeat.