Cantabs were entertaining South Woodham Ferrers at Sedley Taylor Road and a close game was expected with Woodham having lost a couple recently and Cantabs starting to show some form; hoping to progress up the division. From the side that won at Harlow two weeks previously, James Hayward, Dean James and Jon Perks were all unavailable for this one. Jonny Regan was therefore at fly-half, Ryan (Nugget) Moclair in the front row and Tom Stace was at blindside. Ed Foster had just about recovered from his dislocated elbow and was joined on the bench by debutee Rowan Haines and Dave O'Neill back in the 1st team squad for the first time in over two seasons. It was Glen Remnant's birthday and the memorial match for Barty; so two good reasons for a crowd-pleasing performance.
As Cantabs kicked off with the breeze behind them towards the railway it was a near perfect day for rugby with quite a bit of warmth in the sun. Woodham made the early running and a poor pass out to our right winger was intercepted giving Woodham a good chance to show that their backs were going to be a hand full. Cantabs were stretched on both wings as Woodham threw the ball wide. Two early mauls from Woodham also put Cantabs under a good deal of pressure. After five minutes of pressure, Cantabs put some neat passing together to allow the break through the centre, with Jonny Regan making a strong run, but he looked to pass inside when we had an overlap outside and Woodham smothered the danger. Woodham broke away and moved up to our 22, Cantabs were penalised for the second time for not staying on our feet at the breakdown. Woodham took a tap and their No 8 muscled his way through two tackles and still had the momentum to make the line; 0 - 7 with ten minutes gone.
It was by now clear that Cantabs were not going to kick out of defence and Jonny Regan was running the ball at all opportunities. This made for somewhat slow progress at times, but our handling and tackling was certainly keeping the game tight. Richard Knight, following the game plan jinked his way into the opposition 22 and Woodham were penalised for going off their feet. Danny Richards took the penalty and brought the score to 3 - 7. An ankle injury to Regan forced the first substitution. On came Edmund Foster, to add his height to the lineout. Adam Fastnedge moved to fly-half and Tom Stace into centre. A beautifully struck penalty from Fastnedge moved play from our 22 to the opposition 22. Rich Ford won the lineout and Richard Knight's pass found Finn Morrison he shot through the defence on a great line and scored his first try of the season at the posts; Cantabs moved ahead at 10 - 7 with Danny's conversion.
Cantabs continued to press, Rich Ford was now winning the lineouts and Woodham were on the back foot. The pressure told, Adam Fastnedge made the break, and his pass inside was timed perfectly for Drew Tilley to score to the right of the posts. Cantabs were now well ahead at 17 - 7.
Cantabs started the second half brightly, Adam Fastnedge made the break on the right drew the tackle to put Ben Newman away on the right. It took a try-saving tackle ten metres out to stop him scoring. Woodham attacked down the left and with the help of a penalty got within striking distance. Cantabs defended desperately, but the pressure told and the Woodham left winger found just enough space to score at the flag. The conversion kick faded away past the far post as four Cantabs vests chased at the kicker; 17 - 12.
Woodham were re-energised by the try and Cantabs had to withstand further attacks. Finn Morrison, Will Knights and Matt Houlden in particular were in the thick of the action as Cantabs were pinned back. Ryan Moclair took a breather and Jonny Heaver took over at prop with Dave O'Neill brought into the pack. Woodham had a series of scrums close to the Cantabs line and eventually won a penalty just 5 metres out, electing for the scrum. Cantabs just managed to hang on, and avoided further scores. Then for the first time in the game, Danny Richards kicked long over the Woodham defence and was close to winning the chase to the Woodham line. Woodham won a penalty on their try line and kicked up to the 22. Rich Ford caught the lineout and Cantabs' maul took over and relentlessly moved right up to the try line and scored. It was Isaia Barbieri that grounded the ball and Cantabs were clear at 22 - 12 with around 15 minutes left on the clock. Ben Newman gave way to Rowan Haines.
Woodham came straight back at Cantabs down their right wing and it took some great tackling by Houlden to keep them out. Then with less than 10 minutes on the clock, Adam Fastnedge got into a bout of hand bags with the Woodham right winger and both received yellow cards.
Woodham kicked to the corner but Ford stole their lineout ball and Cantabs kicked clear. Woodham came back at us and two scrums later they were 5 metres out. Cantabs held the push, but the Woodham No 8 went for the line, found his scrum-half in support and he managed to reach over the Cantabs tackler to touch down in the corner. There were only a couple of minutes left on the clock, so their kicker drop-kicked the conversion from the right hand touch line; 22 - 19.
With a resolute defence and some good tackling, Cantabs kept play around the halfway line. Then at the next ruck, Jonny Heaver stole the ball, slipped it to Danny Richards, who kicked it into touch to end the game.
Finn Morrison was awarded man of the match back in the clubhouse and most of us on the touchline agreed with the verdict. This win moved Cantabs out of the bottom two in the division. Next game is in two weeks time at Southwold.