For Cantabs a win against their old opponents Ipswich would ensure rugby in London 2 for a fifth consecutive season; otherwise we were relying on defeats for Harlow and South Woodham Ferrers. Club captain, Richard Knight, and match winner James Hayward were back from long standing injuries. Perksy was back from recent illness. None of them were match fit, but were putting their bodies on the line for the old club. Otherwise the team was unchanged and was further strengthened by a bench including last year's captain Tom Bailey.
Cantabs kicked off on a cold April day with a bitter wind swirling across the pitch. The blues and whites started very well with the scrum dominant and Ipswich defending their 22 desperately. From the first of these a lineout secured saw Dean James burst through a gap from 20 metres out, only to be tackled on the line. Ipswich conceded the 5m scrum and it took three of them to finally clear the danger. Big chance for Cantabs gone. Three more scrums followed but finally Ipswich broke clear but were penalised giving Kieran a first pot at goal from 35m out. The kick narrowly missed and you felt our early dominance had gone unrewarded. Ipswich showed then that they had speed on the right wing with an ominous run from their man; Cantabs survived that one. However when their lofty centre kicked ahead over our defence, he too showed a clean pair of heels to our defenders and scored at ease under the posts. 7 - 0 after fifteen minutes play.
Cantabs were soon back in the opposition 22, with a penalty to the corner from Hayward. Rich Ford took the catch and Isaia almost made the line, the ball was rucked back and switched wide to the left where Finn Morrison dived for the try in the corner. Somehow their right winger knocked the ball out of his grasp as he was in mid air and the chance had gone. Cantabs continued to press, the scrum providing our next chance from 15 metres out. Richard Knight picked up then burst through one tackle and scuttled his way through the defence to score one of his typical scrum half tries at the right hand post. All square after 20 minutes play at 7 all.
Ipswich came straight back at us down the left, dragged the defence over to that side and when their fly half hit kicked low across the pitch into the right hand corner all their right winger had to do was fall on the ball. The conversion from the touchline hit the far post and went over; 14 - 7 with 25 minutes gone.
Ipswich then had their big centre yellow carded for tackling when not retreating ten metres. Surely Cantabs big chance? It was not to be as the next meaningful attack came from the home side. Cantabs scrum provided the chance, but Richard was halted on the try line, Ipswich kicked clear well and our defence was yet again turned. Another wide kick to the right saw their winger facing two defenders this time but still the try came, again in the corner; this time unconverted to bring the score to 19 - 7 at half time.
Glen brought on Tom Bailey for Ben Tozer at half time and the Cantabs faithful looked forward to even more dominance in the scrums. Drew Tilley was replaced by Jonny Regan. Ipswich however soon increased their lead with yet another attack down the right and a score in the corner; 24 - 7. Tom Bailey injured his back in the first scrum, struggled on for another few minutes but with just five minutes of the half gone, Ben replaced him. Ipswich now had 15 men on the pitch and before we had time to recognise this, Finn Morrison received a yellow for exactly the same offence as the Ipswich man had. To rub salt into our wounds, the next Ipswich try followed with another try to the winger which went unconverted. But the game was now beyond Cantabs at 29 - 7.
Perksy wound back the clock with a great driving burst and Cantabs pressed, but the score would not come. Laurence Jones entered the fray, and Jonny Heaver took a breather for five minutes before he was back on to replace a limping Ollie Dakin. Now even the Cantabs scrum was struggling and Ipswich were well on top. The inevitable then happened, their centre burst through again and scored under the posts. Ipswich then arrogantly decided to drop-kick the conversion, and missed; 34 - 7.
James Hayward took a bad knock to his shoulder and was replaced by Drew. Ipswich attacked out wide on the right and yet again their right winger took the honours scoring in the corner. This time the conversion was on the money and Ipswich were home and dry at 41 - 7.
To their credit, Cantabs did not give up and a rolling maul took play 20 metres into the Ipswich 22. Ipswich conceded the lineout and Rich Ford caught for the umpteenth time, Dean James accepted his pass and shot through a crowd of defenders to score. Kieran thought his conversion had made it, but the touch judges were not in agreement. Final score 41 - 12.
With this result and the news that South Woodham Ferrers had won at home against Wanstead, Cantabs finished 10th out of 12 and are relegated to London 3. It is the end of an era perhaps but certainly not the end. The team will be losing Matt Houlden, who will be living in Ipswich. Francois will be moving to France shortly and with Dean James announcing his retirement; Cantabs will have to rebuild after a decade of success built on a dominant front row.
The Club will survive this set back; it has seen much worse in the past 73 years. Next season the new floodlights will be completed, even the new entrance from Long Road has been promised for the close season (but we will believe that one when we see the diggers arrive). We have our best coaching and support team that the Club has ever seen in the era of league rugby, so I am optimistic that the Club will rebuild and continue to be a force in Cambridge rugby.
Just one game left in the 2018/19 season for the 2nd XV who will face Diss 2nds at Sedley Taylor Road next week to decide the winners of the Eastern Counties 1 Bowl, after their 60 - 15 win away to Halstead yesterday.