Another prodigal son, Jon Perks, emerged from the wilderness for his first game of the season for the 1sts, and what a homecoming it proved to be. Nick Denham and Richard Knight returned as well. But it was the heavyweight pack that caught the eye on the teamsheet. Barbieri and Perks alongside Tom Bailey up front and with Charlie Searle at blindside and Ben Tozer on the bench there was plenty of cover if Perksy was not up to it!
5th-placed Harlow was the opposition and having shed 44 points in the away game Cantabs clearly had to stop the Essex backs from breaking clear. The pitch was already cutting up after the warm-up, but with the promised rain not appearing, the Cantabs faithful tore themselves away from the big screen as James Hayward kicked off towards the railway.
We lined up to the right, James kicked to the left, where a soaring Matt Houlden caught the ball and went for the line. It very nearly caught the visitors cold, but he was adjudged to have stepped over the line just ten metres short. We took the lineout and continued to press, but Harlow finally cleared the danger.Two penalties in quick succession against Cantabs and Harlow had a lineout deep in our 22 in no time at all. Cantabs were still thinking about defending when the Harlow forward burst through to score in the corner; 0 - 5 with just three minutes gone and our electronic scoreboard not even in position.
The Cantabs pack were already showing the Harlow scrum was in for a hard afternoon, and it was a similar story when our rolling maul started just inside the Harlow 22 following a lineout. Harlow were sliding backwards at a rate of knots and suddenly new dad Richard Knight was celebrating again as he burst through low to the ground to finish the move with a score to the left of the posts. Cantabs were level at 5 - 5.
Cantabs scrum was causing Harlow grief and a bout of handbags followed as both sides struggled to dominate. Referee, John Evans, watched on until the tempers cooled; but it was clear our front five were having a field day. The restarted scrum saw Harlow under pressure, we span the ball out to the left, Drew Tilley's long pass out to the wing saw Houlden go close yet again. Harlow were awarded a scrum seven metres out as Matt spilled the ball forwards and at the second attempt Harlow got the ball back to their fly-half deep in goal. Richard Knight was up on the kick like a terrier, charging down the clearance. Cantabs reward, a 5 metre scrum, was ample. Cantabs scrum did its job, Pete Collins dribbling the ball forwards as Harlow attempted to wheel the whole thing away from the line. Pete picked up and made the line on the blindside. A great conversion from Hayward from the left hand touchline and Cantabs were ahead for the first time at 12 - 5.
With 25 minutes gone, Perksy was given a break and Ben Tozer took over. Harlow probably though thank goodness, but the Cantabs scrum continued to dominate. Unfortunately Adam Fastnedge followed Jon to the sideline when a big tackle damaged his leg; he was to take no further part in the game. Ollie Blackmur moved to centre with Jonny Regan coming on to the right wing. Cantabs were dominating at this point but mistakes in the Harlow red zone and a succession of penalties against us for offside, meant we did not increase our lead. Harlow were suddenly back in the game when a rare period of sustained pressure saw them score to the right of the posts; 12 - 12 with the conversion adding the extra. No further score at half time, but anyone's game.
Harlow's restart kick was caught by Finn Morrison, and suddenly Drew Tilley was away down the right wing before being halted at the Harlow 22. Hayward found touch inside the 22, Pete Collins stole the lineout, and Tom Bailey shot down the blind-side to score in the corner. Cantabs were ahead again at 17 - 12.
Finn Morrison was then adjudged to be too aggressive against his opposite number, and received a ten minute break from the action. Apparently Sir had not seen the full incident and as always the retaliation act was punished. Jon Perks swapped with Tozer up front. Cantabs were penalised for offside for the umpteenth time on the edge of our 22 and the Harlow kicker narrowed our lead to just 2 points; 17 - 15. By now Harlow front row had nearly had enough and the odd crooked throw from Cantabs resulted in a Harlow lineout rather than a scrum. Unfortunately for the visitors their lineout was not fooling Pete Collins and their only option was to throw to the front. Cantabs caught the restart kick and were soon on the attack again. Two kicks from James pushed us up into the Harlow 22, We messed up our lineout and promptly stole the Harlow throw as Collins tapped back. Perksy bounced off two tacklers and set up the ruck. Richard Knight was there, saw a gap and shot through it to score in the right hand corner. Again James Hayward could not lift the ball far enough out of the mud, but at 22 - 15 we had a bonus point.
Glen made a double substitution with fifteen minutes to go Harry Wilson replacing Charlie Searle at blind-side and Tozer on for our Italian stallion up front. A big kick into our 22, was not dealt with and Cantabs were up against it as Matt Houlden could not retrieve the situation. His run out of defence was halted on our 22, as he was tackled into touch. Luckily, after great defence from Cantabs, Harlow knocked on just short of our line. Our scrum held firm at the third attempt, and Shed took over bringing the ball clear. Cantabs kept the ball in hand, protected it at each ruck and the forwards slowly but surely inched forward out of the 22, up to the 10m line, up to half way, on to the Harlow 10m and still protecting the ball we made it right up to the Harlow 22. Harlow were caught offside, for the first time in the match! James took ages over the kick, and nailed it! 25 -15 to the jubilation of the Cantabs supporters. And that was that. Quite a return for Perksy, who was one of the last to leave the Clubhouse. Dave Evershed was awarded man of the match for his hard-won yards. Frankly, the whole pack, were awesome, with conditions suiting us. Richard Knight was at his sniping best, scoring two tries and charging down the kick to make another score possible. Finn Morrison was very unlucky to be carded after some unacceptable gouging; his aggressive running to tackle the ball carrier has enlivened the team and if he can keep fit he really does improve our defence. Our lineouts and scrums caused Harlow lots of grief. Now we have to continue to play like this and claw our way back up the league table. It will not be easy as both Woodford and Chelmsford seemed to be picking up points as well.
Next game is against Ely, in the Cambs Cup, under lights at Ely; kick off is FRIDAY 9th February at 20.00. Come and support the lads!
A great day for the Club was made even better when the 2nd XV returned from their trip into deepest Suffolk to announce a win against Beccles 1st XV. Well played lads!