Following the win in the Cambs Cup against Ely, Cantabs saw the return of Rich Ford at 2nd row, Tom Stace at blind-side, Finn Morrison at open-side, Matt Houlden on the left wing and Kieran Dolaghan at full-back. Rowan Haines was making his debut for the 1st XV and was joined on the bench by Ed Foster and Will McFadyen.
Storm Eric was on the way out but the wind was still pretty strong behind Cantabs, who had chosen the railway end. The pitch was soft but still in fair condition after a week of rain.
Cantabs had won their first game of the season at Basildon, and after a poor performance in the last league game at Norwich, we were desperate for a win. Kieran's kicking gave Cantabs the first two attacking positions. The first was a clearing kick to half way to stop a Basildon attack and the second was a grubber kick to the left hand corner when we stole the lineout. Rich Ford took the second lineout as well but lost control and Basildon cleared their 22.
However, with just five minutes on the clock, Drew Tilley took the ball in his own half and ran straight through the middle of the defence up to the opposition 22. Kieran was up in support on the left and took the pass to score at ease in the corner; 5 - 0 to Cantabs.
Basildon had some decent runners and came back at Cantabs with some dangerous, if not penetrating attacks; but our human torpedo, Finn Morrison was at his tackling and disrupting best, so Basildon rarely got into our 22. Jonny Heaver stole yet another Basildon lineout and Ollie shifted play over to the left, the final pass to Matt Houlden was too high, and although he got the ball away to Perksy, the move broke down as our prop was swallowed up by the cover defence. So, play continued in this vein with Cantabs dominating, but the final pass was always
hurried or lacking direction.
A long kick into our 22 was caught by Francois Eve, and again Basildon were caught by his direct running through the centre. Jon Perks took up the attack with a battering run at the Basildon defence and drew the penalty. Keiran took the kick from 30m out and increased the lead to 8 - 0.
From the restart kick, Ollie moved the ball across his own 22 to Finn Morrison. He sped past four or five attempted tackles and at the Basildon 10m line found Kieran. His pass was on the money to Matt Houlden and our flying winger scored to the left of the posts; 13 - 0 with Kieran's kick striking the right hand post and staying out. Cantabs were still attacking with Ollie dummying and then setting off towards the 22, before he was tackled. That move brought the half to a conclusion.
No changes at half time from Glen, and the wind had lost its bite somewhat as Ollie kicked off. Cantabs started well through Tom Stace down the left, supported by Ollie Dakin, but when we recycled the ball the long pass out to the right from Ollie was not quite on the money. But, Basildon had been caught offside and Kieran increased the lead to 16 - 0.
Jonny Heaver took a break to allow Ed Foster to move into the 2nd Row. For the umpteenth time, Perksy blasted through the middle and yet again drew the penalty. Kieran went for the left hand corner, but although he did not make it, Basildon knocked on, and were caught offside. Cantabs chose the scrum option, and again Basildon strayed offside. Yet again, Cantabs went for the scrum, but Basildon held firm on 5m and Dean switched the ball out to the right. Drew, Jonny Regan and Francois all had a go at the line, but Basildon defended well and eventually cleared.
The third try came from a Basildon error on halfway. They fumbled the ball at the back of the scrum, and Tom Stace was quickest to react. He gathered the ball and raced away, scoring at the posts. Kieran made the kick and Cantabs were at 23 - 0.
The next score went to Basildon. We had mauled well throughout the match and appeared to have halted Basildon in our 22. But the maul collapsed and the penalty went against Cantabs. Basildon moved the ball to the left, were denied, but when the next penalty came they switched back to the right and a long pass to the wing was accepted. Despite Matt Houlden's tackle, the line was breached and when the conversion went over, Basildon celebrated as if they had won the match; 23 - 7.
Glen brought on Will for Dean, and Rowan for Matt, with Jonny back on at hooker for Ollie for the last quarter of the match. Basildon never really threatened again. Then on halfway, Ollie took a quick tap and surged forward, will took his offload and after some neat inter-passing Danny took the honours to score our fourth try and gained the bonus point. Final score 28 - 7.
Cantabs moved back up to eighth with this win, above Ipswich, but face a tough match away to league leaders Woodford next week. Finn Morrison was my man of the match with his non-stop tackling denying Basildon any time on the ball. We also appear to have found a kicker to replace the injured James Hayward, in Kieran Dolaghan.