The trip to Basildon was a real bottom of the table clash with neither side having gained a point this season, something had to give. For Cantabs it was the return of the prodigal sons; Isaia Barbieri, Rich Ford, Finn Morrison, Danny Richards, Tom Stace and Dean James all back in the pack and Adam Fastnedge and Jonny Regan for the backs. We had two extra front row men on the bench accompanying Fergus Wilson, who was in the 1st XV squad for the first time this season.
It was a balmy autumn day, bright sun with some warmth in it as Basildon kicked off with the breeze and a slight slope in their favour. Cantabs were soon on the attack but Matt Houlden on the left wing was stopped abruptly by a high tackle and James Hayward made good ground with the penalty from halfway. Finn Morrison took the ball at speed from the lineout and gained another 10 metres, Basildon were penalised again and our fly half pushed the home side deep into their 22. Basildon were again penalised at the lineout and the third penalty got us to within 5 metres in the left hand corner. Finn Morrison soared, juggled the ball but held on to keep the momentum going, Richard Knight to James Hayward who forced himself over the line to score at the flag. James struck the conversion perfectly and with less than three minutes on the clock Cantabs were up 0 - 7.
The Basildon openside flanker took a bad knock to the head trying to catch their restart kick and had to be helped from the field. The game started with a scrum to Basildon, and Cantabs were clearly under huge pressure. Ten minutes and two further scrums and Glen made the change up front, with Jon perks replacing Ryan Moclair. He arrived for a scrum 5 metres out in the left hand corner. We made the line but the ball was held up and Cantabs had a go, but Basildon scrambled the ball clear and kicked to safety. Tom Skelton moved across to the left wing and his run made 30 metres setting up Cantabs for yet another attack. Both flyhalves were kicking well and play was moving backwards and forwards as each side tried to get the upper hand. One move from Cantabs, set up by some neat work by Ollie Townsend on the right, saw some good handling as the ball moved right across to the right where Matt Houlden tried to get around the Basildon defence but was tackled into touch. Rich Ford was upsetting the Basildon lineout but their young flyhalf was kicking superbly with the breeze and making 50 metres on some of his kicks to touch. Tom Skelton made good progress down the right wing this time but lacked support as he tried to pass inside under pressure. Our scrum was till under pressure and the Cantabs front row was adjudged to have stood up, and duly penalised. Their 10 kicked the penalty through the middle from our 10m line; 3 - 7.
Cantabs were attacking from the restart Regan was felled by one tackle, and Perksy's run was halted by a big hit to the head from his opposite number's shoulder. Meanwhile the game continued and their winger ran at our depleted defence, beat three despairing tackles and out-paced James Hayward to score at the posts; 10 - 7. Perks sustained a bad cut to his forehead, Regan had a nose bleed and suddenly we had the whole Remnant family on the pitch with bandages and bags. Both players had to leave the pitch. Regan's nose was a complete mess, and he sat the rest of the game on the touchline trying to stop the blood flowing. That brought Fergus Wilson into the fray. Perksy was patched up and sent out again after five minutes with a big white bandage on. Charlie Osbourn on the touchline wondered why Sir had waved the play on after the high tackle on Perks but the score stood and Cantabs were now chasing the game.
Cantabs were now under pressure, but managed to weather the storm. Then the best move of the game. Dean took off down the right in his normal bustling style, but faced with two advancing defenders, he chipped the ball over their heads gathered the bouncing ball, drew the next tackler and timed his pass to James Hayward perfectly, he slipped the ball inside to captain Richard Knight who sprinted clear to score under the posts; Cantabs were back in front at 10 - 14. There was not time for a restart as Sir blew up for the half.
Hayward restarted the game with a long drop-out to the right hand corner, causing Basildon to knock on. But we were penalised for not binding in the scrum and wasted a good opportunity. Basildon kicked clear but Cantabs were straight back at them. Basildon were now defending in their 22. They won the next lineout, but Cantabs locked the ball in and mauled to good effect, enough to win the put-in at the resultant scrum. Basildon's outside centre decided to halt Hayward with flailing arm after the ball had gone, and left the field for 10 minutes. Hayward kicked to the corner, Tom Stace won the lineout and Jack Holland took the ball over at the back of the maul to score in the corner. James Hayward again hit the ball perfectly from the touchline and Cantabs were clear at 10 - 21.
Cantabs were caught trying to pass out of defence when the big kick out of defence would have been the best option. Basildon spurned the easy penalty and went for the scrum from right in front of goal. Cantabs averted the danger briefly, but Basildon were now in the corner and Cantabs had to defend yet another scrum. Perks was forced out of the action for a change in bandaging as the blood had started to flow again and Tozer took over up front. Our scrambled defence were forced into a forward pass and this time Basildon made no mistake from a strong push at the scrum, scoring in the corner. Their No 10 showed that he too could convert from out wide; 17 - 21 and game on!
Perksy went back on with a new white bandana and Isaia took a well-deserved break. Next good break came from Skelton down the right wing. His kick ahead was chased by Richard Knight but although he was first to the ball it handed dribbled over the dead ball line. Cantabs were now making all the running. Fastnedge made the line and the corner flag at the same time and Sir called play back for an infringement on 5m during the build-up. Hayward kicked to touch, Rich Ford took the catch and the resultant maul gave Danny Richards the try, to cap a good game for him. That try was our fourth and gave Cantabs their first point of the season. For once James pushed his kick wide of the right hand post, but Cantabs had some breathing space at 17 - 26.
Cantabs soon added a fifth try. James Hayward rounded off the scoring for Cantabs when he intercepted a telegraphed pass on his own 10m line and ran clear of the chasing defence to score at the posts for his second try of the match; 17 - 33.
Perksy finally got a well deserved break from the action and Ryan (Nuggett) Moclair had the last ten minutes back in the action. Basildon did get a consolation try right at the death, with some slack tackling allowing their second row to score at the posts. Final score 24 - 33.
Cantabs are off the mark at last in game six of the season and now have to chase down Harlow and Ipswich who are just above them in the table. However, next week's game against leaders Woodford will not be straight forward.
Lots of candidates for man of the match this week. Hayward with 18 points was outstanding, their supporters gave it to Dean for that chip over the defence. Finn Morrison made a lot of difference with his speed into the tackle. However, I give it to Rich Ford who dominated the lineouts and was always a threat on their throws and forced them to repeatedly throw to the front.