Cantabs travelled to Wanstead for this fixture; the home side were flying high, only league leaders Rochford Hundred had beaten them this season. For Cantabs we welcomed the return of Dave Evershed and Isaia Barbieri to the pack.
Cantabs kicked off down the slope with a stiff and chilly breeze at their backs. Rochford spilled the drop-out but Cantabs lost the scrum and Rochford worked the ball steadily into Cantabs territory. Suddenly the home side were at our line and despite the attempts of three defenders Wanstead forced the ball over for the first try to the right of the posts; 5 - 0 and we feared the worst with less than five minutes gone.
Wanstead came straight back at us and went close but were penalised just five metres out. James Hayward tried to take a quick penalty, but the ball was slapped out of his hand and he eventually took the kick to touch from 15 metres, but Wanstead by then were back in position. The game then gradually got more and more silly with the home side losing their cool, and Cantabs joining in at times to seemingly stoke the fire. The referee for his part was verbal but seemed to miss most of the handbags that appeared. However Wanstead had not yet allowed Cantabs into their half again and the pressure finally told when they opted for a kick at goal bang in front only ten metres out; 8 - 0 after eighteen minutes play.
Hayward's restart drop-out was on the money pushing Wanstead back into the right hand corner.We drew the penalty and Hayward's kick just found touch in the corner. They took the lineout but their scrum half was forced back onto his try line giving Cantabs a 5m scrum. Cantabs pack went for the line and the drive from Shed saw him go close and Wanstead were caught offside. Wanstead were expecting another kick to touch, but Hayward took a tap and captain Tom Bailey forced his way over with the pack at his back. A great kick from the right from Hayward added the points and Cantabs were right in it at 8 - 7, with just over a quarter of the game gone.
Wanstead were now losing the plot somewhat and their running game had changed to one more ill-disciplined and petulant, with their number two in particular arguing with everyone on and off the pitch. Hayward kicked wide and high to Matt Houlden on the right wing. He soared high to take the catch and was taken out in the air by their No 10, landing heavily. He recovered after lengthy treatment, but Wanstead were down to 14 for the rest of the game.
The game restarted and Wanstead attacked, but a lofted pass was plucked out of the air by Ollie Blackmur, he juggled it once but clung on to race clear from half way to touch down under the posts; 8 - 14 after half an hour.
A succession of penalties brought Wanstead into our 22, with the last of them giving them a 5m lineout. Cantabs could not halt the resultant maul and Wanstead scored in the right hand corner; that made it 13 - 14. The writing was on the wall for Cantabs, our defence was not strong enough against their maul, but we were still ahead.
The game restarted and Wanstead were still ill-disciplined, when all they had to do was play their stronger running game. Then with the griping and the handbags continuing, unseen by the referee on halfway, suddenly James Hayward broke away to the left, in typical style, outpaced their fullback, rounding him to score under the posts. Another straight forward conversion made it 13 - 21.
The referee had warned Cantabs about too many off-sides and threatened cards, perhaps to even up the numbers? Inevitably a yellow followed and it was Hayward who was given ten minutes, shortly before half time.
Wanstead kicked long at the restart of the second half with all the elements at their backs, we spilt the ball and Wanstead were in our 22. Cantabs were penalised at the scrum, the free kick was tapped, Wanstead pack mauled the ball and Cantabs pack could not halt the drive. The conversion was missed from wide out on the left, but the writing was on the wall as Wanstead closed in at 18 - 21.
Then the game went away from Cantabs. a long penalty kick to the right this time from their No 14, playing fly-half, found touch. Wanstead won the lineout at the back of the line, and shipped the ball wide to the left. The left winger finished the move with a try in the corner. Now their kicker had found his range and Wanstead were ahead for the first time in half an hour at 25 - 21.
Cantabs now only ventured into the Wanstead half on rare occasions and the home side had returned to playing rugby. Isaia was wrongly penalised for driving through the centre of a ruck, and we were pinned back in the corner by the penalty. Francois Eve replaced Jim Bryant on the wing. Wanstead were not to be stopped though and powered through for their fifth try close to the posts; 32 - 21.
Cantabs were reduced to fourteen men again by a second yellow, but all Wanstead were now doing was to kick long diagonally from right to left, every time we either lost possession or gave away a penalty. Their fly-half used the wind beautifully to pin us back in the corner. We were penalised for not rolling away at the tackle and the onslaught continued. Cantabs repelled the odd attack, but Wanstead by now were completely dominant, even the referee seemed to be on their side, awarding a succession of free kicks against us at each scrum. Wanstead then gained a penalty 30 m out and converted this to bring the score to 35 -21.
A long kick to the left, a lineout secured, and Wanstead scored again through their substitute, now wearing the 10 shirt, who powered through our tackles to score at the posts; 42 -21.
We were getting into the Wanstead half very rarely. When Matt Houlden was put away on the left, the ball was ripped from him and hacked down the right by Wanstead, gathered by their right winger who scored in the corner. A good conversion brought the score up to 49 - 21.
Final try of the game also went to Wanstead. Cantabs were pinned back on their line, and took the scrum, but Nick Denham's pass to his fly-half was gobbled up by their scrum half right under the posts allowing him the easiest of tries. Final score 56 - 21.
Cantabs were right in at at half time, but poor tackling, too many penalties conceded and some well judged kicking from the Wanstead fly-half, conspired to end our day miserably. Their were signs that we can claw our way back up the table, Wanstead were rattled for a good spell in the first half.
Wins for both the 2nds and the 3rds made the day somewhat brighter. Cantabs next game is at Sedley Taylor Road on 9th December when the opposition are Romford & Gidea Park. This will be a vital game for us and if you have not yet booked your place for the pre-match Christmas lunch, get back to me ASAP.