Three changes to the starting fifteen for the trip to Sudbury: Nick Denham in as scrumhalf for Xaver Touschek, Nathan Davenport at second row for Pete Collins and new man Ollie Blackmur at outside centre for Paul Pudney. Sudbury, relegated from London 1, were enjoying a good run, so Cantabs expected a hard game.
Sudbury kicked off with the breeze behind them on an immaculate pitch, beautifully lined out and with a large crowd expecting to win. The home side were off to a flyer, Cantabs were caught offside straight away, Sudbury kicked to the corner, caught the line out and their right winger cut down the blindside to score in the corner. Their fly-half hit a perfect conversion; 7 - 0, with two minutes on the clock.
Our restart kick was caught by their outside flanker who scythed through our defence and was finally tackled at our 22. Sudbury got to the try line, but we were able to stop the try, only to be pulled up for another offside. The penalty was kicked from bang in front; 10 - 0.
Sudbury were soon on the attack again and a certain try for their right winger was prevented by a great tackle from Jonny Regan. Cantabs then lost two lineouts in a row, and the second of these put our defence under enormous pressure deep inside our 22. Sudbury got the put in at the scrum wide out on the right, they only just held onto the scrum, but broke down the blindside and again scored in the corner. That brought the score to 15 - 0 after 14 minutes.
Cantabs then mounted their first serious attack and drew the penalty on the edge of the Sudbury 22. James Hayward duly obliged; 15 - 3.
Cantabs tried to throw the ball about, but the first time it didn't go to hand, Sudbury were in and this time the left winger made the try, again in the corner. Again the conversion was well struck; 22 - 3.
Cantabs then came under pressure in the scrum and were penalised, and the kick was good to bring the score to 25 - 3.
James Hayward then went close, he kicked the ball ahead from his own half, Toby Stockley was first to the ball and hacked on again, then Hayward looked to have scored, but he and two defenders then seemed to collide with the goal post as they all looked to touch down the ball. There was a lengthy delay while the Sudbury man was treated for concussion. He ended up substituted and Cantabs were awarded a scrum on 5m in front of the posts. Cantabs went forward and yet again one of the Sudbury forwards came off worse, leading to another delay and yet another 5m scrum to Cantabs. This time Stockley got the ball out to Nick Denham he linked with Hayward, and his pass found Jonny Regan who scored under pressure in the right hand corner; 25 - 8. Justifiable score for a good period of pressure.
By now your correspondent was holding a yellow flag and endeavouring to wave, talk and hobble all at the same time, so my words appear more gibberish than normal as I try and recall them. As we approached the end of the first half the score had moved to 28 - 8, but my recollection of just how that happened is rather vague, needless to say I must have been at the posts as the Sudbury penalty went over?
There was one further try before halftime, again to Sudbury when their inside centre cut through our defence to score in the left hand corner. This time the conversion rapped the bar and stayed out. Half time score was 33 - 8.
The sixth try came after a good spell of pressure from Cantabs, again it was the winger, this time the left, who out paced everyone to score at the posts; 40 - 8. To add to our woes, Adam Fastnedge was then pulled up for a high tackle and took a mandatory 10 minutes away from the action. The next Sudbury scrum was close to our line, and their No 8 forced his way over for the try out to the right of the posts, damaging himself in the attempt. The kick was successful, and Sudbury were home and dry at 47 - 8.
Sudbury then scored again, courtesy of their left winger and their fly-half sealed a great day with yet another conversion to make the score 54 - 8.
Cantabs to their credit did not give up and our scrum started to dominate. Even the referee seemed to be on our side with a succession of penalties awarded to Cantabs. Harry Wilson then got a yellow, so Cantabs did well to prevent further scores from the home side. Then it was Sudbury's turn as they saw their No 7 given a yellow when he tried to interfere as we attempted a quick tap penalty. Suddenly Cantabs were in the corner, and Sudbury were again penalised for offside. Hayward took a tap when Sudbury assumed he was going for touch again. Captain Tom Bailey then took over and broke through two tackles from 15m out, withe his impetus just enough to hit the line for a great consolation try. James got the extra two and the score went to 54 - 15.
We had one further golden chance to score, Hayward kicked ahead, Ollie Blackmur picked up the bouncing ball on the left and passed inside to the supporting Jim Bryant on halfway. But with the try line beckoning he dropped the pass, and that was that.
It has to be said that Sudbury are an excellent side, and will probably run Rochford Hundred close on this side; and good luck to them. Rochford all receive payment for playing and Sudbury pay match fees like Cantabs, so I side with Sudbury.
Although we lost this game, it was otherwise a good day for the club, with 59 players pulling on the Cantabs jersey and another 24 unable to play. Both 2nds and 3rds won with the 3rd XV now heading their division. Numbers are good, the coaching team is by far the best we have had for many a year. I am sure we will survive at this level, and will doubtless continue to improve. Next game is at Sedley Taylor when we host Ipswich, a game Cantabs really do need to win.