Cantabs made the short trip down the M11 with a strengthened squad. Dean James was back at blindside, and Tom Stace was on the bench. Michael Pedder was given a start at hooker while last year's captain and Wellingborough teacher Tom Bailey was on the bench. The pitch was immaculate, and the floodlights on as Cantabs kicked off with the breeze assisting.
James Hayward's drop-out was not dealt with by Harlow, someone kicked on. Harlow failed to deal with this as well and Ollie Townsend was first to the bouncing ball in goal, dived on it to score his first try of the season with less than a minute on the scoreboard; 0 - 7 to Cantabs.
Cantabs were soon on the offensive again. This time James Hayward tried one of his chips over the top, and was impeded illegally. He kicked to the left hand corner, Rich Ford took the lineout and found Richard Knight. He twisted and turned then darted forward through a ruck of players, avoided three pairs of clutching hands and made the try line. Hayward had no problem with the conversion and Cantabs were away at 0 - 14 after less than five minutes.
Harlow then woke up from their nightmare start. Cantabs were attacking, lost the ball inside the Harlow half, and the home side switched play smartly over to the left where their winger made good ground. He was halted but the Essex forwards then took over and hammered away at our defence. Finally the break was made and Harlow touched down close to the post; 7 - 14 after just eight minutes.
Cantabs scrum was brought into action as the restart kick went straight into touch. Harlow just about held onto this one as Cantabs wheeled. Another scrum shortly after gave Cantabs possession, and the penalty. James Hayward kicked to the left and a good catch and drive brought play up to the Harlow 22. Rich Knight found Matt Houlden out wide. He passed inside to Ollie Townsend, who found James Hayward in support with space; two side steps, two men beaten and an off load to the supporting Michael Pedder who dived through the posts for his first try of the season; 7 - 21 with less than a quarter of the game gone.
Cantabs secured the restart kick and got the chance for the best move of the match. Richard Knight passed out to the right, Ben Newman and Ollie Townsend combined beautifully to bypass the first defenders, Ollie found Richard Knight on his left and he shot through the non-existent defence to score at the posts. Yet another easy conversion for Hayward and Cantabs were clear with a try bonus point at 7 - 28.
Harlow then changed their loose head and Cantabs continued to push them back. Great determination from Cantabs tacklers kept the Harlow forwards in their own half. Cantabs continued to press and then spilled the ball forward inside the Harlow 22. Harlow got the ball out wide left to their winger in space. He ran the length of the pitch and despite a determined effort from Rich Ford to stop him, he scored in the left hand corner. The Harlow fly-half's kick struck the near post and stayed out, but the score had moved to 12 - 28 with still only 30 minutes played.
Cantabs attacked again but poor handling stopped the move. The Harlow danger man on the left kicked ahead from the Harlow 22, Finn Morrison tackled him without the ball and the penalty was taken on our 10 metre line. Harlow took the penalty very hurriedly and made little progress, but they secured the lineout and switched play to the right. Cantabs tackling was for once lacking and Harlow moved the game even closer with a score in the right hand corner. Luckily for Cantabs the conversion went wide, but Harlow had inched closer at 17 - 28.
Harlow were enjoying their best spell and a deliberate knock on from Cantabs, which went unpunished, just outside our 22, stopped another attack from the home side. They failed to capitalise from that penalty and Cantabs kicked clear. Adam Fastnedge found himself in space, beat two men and ran to the right, and was tackled just five metres short of the line. Our support was not up with him quick enough and the penalty came for not releasing. That was the last attacking move of the half.
Glen brought on the Tom brigade for the second half. Bailey moving to hooker to restore the front row to past glories and Stace replaced an injured Dean James at flanker. A high tackle on Finn Morrison gave Cantabs and Hayward a chance to hit the left hand corner. He got the kick to within 12 metres. Rich Ford caught, held on and the maul drove forward at pace, the line was reached and it was Tom Bailey that took the honours. For once James could not master the wind but we were back in control at 17 - 33 with just five minutes of the half gone.
Cantabs scrum now dominated, the extra weight from the two Toms causing Harlow front row untold problems. Harlow scrum was in complete disarray, but somehow they secured the ball and went close to scoring in the left hand corner. Harlow switched play to the right, Drew Tilley stopped the move, but Cantabs had been caught offside. The Harlow No 10 went for goal and made no mistake with his kick this time from bang in front; 20 - 33.
Cantabs attacked through Tom Stace, his drive took us to with 15 metres of the line and he drew the penalty. Hayward again kicked to the left hand corner. Same result, Rich Ford caught, the maul did its job and although Mr Bailey had to work a little harder this time when the maul splintered, but he again touched down. Hayward still could not master the blustering wind but Cantabs sixth try had made the score 20 - 38.
Harlow then lost their hooker after extensive treatment and kicked to the right hand corner. Cantabs defended the lineout well and when Harlow won a scrum, just eight metres out the Cantabs pack pushed them back, winning the penalty. It was the same result at the next scrum as Cantabs knocked on, and Harlow were back in their own half. Good driving from the pack brought the next penalty to Cantabs and Hayward went for the left hand corner yet again. But Harlow had learnt their lesson well and disrupted our maul this time. James Hayward, Isaia and Rich Ford tried to blast through for the score, but Harlow tackled them all back. Cantabs then won yet another penalty, elected for the scrum on 5 metres, but the hook was too strong for our No 8 to control it and the ball went into touch. Finn Morrison hobbled off, bringing Dean back into the fray. Fergus Wilson also came on for Adam Fastnedge as the game moved into the last quarter.
Tom Stace stopped another Harlow attack, taking man and ball back fully ten metres with his drive from our 22 metre line. But Harlow continued to attack. Sir totally ignored an injury to Dean James close to our try line and with two medics still treating him, Harlow took a quick penalty and moved the ball left, allowing their winger to score at the flag; Harlow's fourth try and the score up to 25 - 38.
Cantabs never looked like conceding again and the last action came with Cantabs scrum on the right moving forward at pace, when we knocked on and brought the game to a conclusion. My man of the match was the rejuvenated Rich Ford who had a huge influence in the lineout this week and has enjoyed one of his best seasons to date.
The Harlow bonus point kept them ahead of Cantabs in the league table, but Cantabs seem to be coming out of a disastrous start to the season. A good day for the club was made even better when we heard that the 2nd XV had beaten Cambridge in Eastern Counties 1. No games next week and a chance for the walking wounded to recover before our home encounter against South Woodham Ferrers on the 17th when the pre match lunch will be held in memory of dear Barty.