Cantabs, entertained Ipswich in the first game of the new season and were much changed from last season. Last year's captain, Tom Bailey had left to take up a teaching role in Wellingborough and this season's captain, Richard Knight was away; so Rich Ford took over for this game. The front row gave a debut to Jack Holland at hooker and there was another new boy at 2nd row in Edmund Foster. With James Hayward away on business, centre Adam Fastnedge took over at fly half. Jonny Regan started at centre for the first time and Ollie Townsend replaced Nick Denham at full-back; the latter awaiting a scan on his knee following a knock in a warm-up game.
After a fabulous VP lunch courtesy of new club president Daren Sheward the players and supporters were ready for the kick off. It was good to be able to welcome our new club sponsors Countryside to the club as well as our charity East Anglian Air Ambulance, we look forward to working with them over the season and beyond.
Cantabs kicked off towards the railway on a well grassed pitch, in near perfect conditions for rugby. Ipswich however started the stronger and with their runners looking threatening, the away side were camped in our half for the first ten minutes. Cantabs were tackling well and our defence held firm. It took a penalty kick to touch from Fastnedge to break the halfway line for the first time and the first couple of scrums saw Cantabs pushing the Ipswich scrum back. Neither side looked likely to break through at this stage.
Cantabs were penalised for not releasing on halfway, Ipswich took a tap penalty and shifted the ball left. Suddenly their left winger was clear and Francois Eve's tackle could only restrict the score to the corner; Ipswich first on the scoreboard at 0 - 5.
After the restart, Jonny Regan made a good break through the centre but a forward pass stopped the move and from that point the Ipswich scrum started to dominate. Cantabs had a chance to break their duck, but Adam's kick from 30m out faded past the post. Our tackling was good, with Finn Morrison up quickly on the Ipswich line, each time they pressed and Dean was working wonders at the back of the scrum, every time we were pushed back on our own ball. But the pressure on the front line was starting to tell and the Ipswich No 8 was coming into the game more and more.
From the Ipswich try, Cantabs had enjoyed a territorial advantage, but every attempt to get Houlden or Eve clear was thwarted, and we looked unlikely to score. A kick to the Ipswich right wing saw their man go clear, but he had started his run too soon and Sir brought play back with him clear on goal. Edmund Foster was starting to show up strongly as he settled into his game, and his steal on the Ipswich 10m line set up a good Cantabs chance, ruined again by a forward pass. Finn Morrison broke up yet another Ipswich move with a crunching tackle, but again Cantabs could not take advantage. Then, we were reduced to fourteen with Fastnedge yellow carded five minutes from the end of the first half; Ollie Townsend moving to fly-half and Francois to full-back. Ipswich rubbed salt into the Cantabs wound by converting the penalty from 35m; 0 - 8.
The Ipswich scrum was now dominant, taking the ball against the head very regularly and limiting Cantabs to a game of fierce defending. To their credit our lads continued to force mistakes and win ball in the loose, but with the scrum at sixes and sevens and the lineout not really functioning either, Cantabs were up against it. Another good piece of work from Ed Foster, showing good hands, brought us up to the Ipswich 22, where we won a penalty. Ollie's kick was good, and at half time we were at last on the scoreboard at 3 - 8.
Glenn brought Charlie Searle on at half time for Jack Holland. Cantabs started the half well, with Ollie trying a kick ahead to his winger, but Ipswich were alert to the danger. Play was brought back for a Cantabs penalty and from the resultant kick to the corner, Cantabs won the lineout and switched the ball right. Again, Jonny Regan broke the line but a desperate tackle from the Ipswich last man prevented a try.
Fastnedge came back on for the next scrum, which was ten metres out from the Ipswich goal, but the visitors were able to clear the danger. The Suffolk men then had a clear chance to increase their lead with an overlap on the left, but the pass was not taken. Drew Tilley retired from the game to be replaced by Alastair McKee, making his debut on the left wing, with Francois moving inside him. The Ipswich scrum was now causing us a huge problem and Cantabs were desperately holding on inside their own 22. Wyoming Jeffries, probably playing his last game before he returns to the USA, replaced Harry Wilson in the pack in an attempt to add a bit of weight. At the next scrum we somehow scrambled the ball back to Rich Ford, who looped around on one of his runs, he slipped on the lush turf, but Francois picked up and made the break down the left into the Ipswich half. He linked with Matt Holden on the left wing, who beat his man, and passed inside to a supporting Adam Fastnedge who scored in the corner; 8 - 8 and there was hope yet for Cantabs.
Ipswich came straight back at Cantabs, won a penalty ten metres out and elected for the scrum. Somehow Cantabs held up the Ipswich forward over the line, but then had to face another scrum on 5m. This time the Ipswich No 8 was not to be stopped, and ran over for the try under the posts; 8 - 15 with just five minutes left on the clock.
Cantabs pressed hard for the equaliser, but poor handling from desperate passing twice handed possession back to the Ipswich scrum. Then a break from halfway from the Ipswich outside centre, saw him evade three tacklers to go in under the posts for the killer blow; 8 - 22. Cantabs did not have the time to come back again and the game finished with Ipswich spoiling our start to the season for the second year in succession.
The coaching team awarded man of the match to Jonny Regan. Equally good in my book were Dean, Finn and Edmund, but unless Cantabs strengthens their scrummaging, it could be a long season ahead.