We had chosen the away trip to Southwold to book a coach. It was the first time we had played the opposition since 2012 when Cantabs had won every league match in Eastern Counties 1 to gain promotion to the London Leagues. It was our first coach to Southwold since the infamous journey in 1996 when the bus broke down prior to our return journey back to Cambridge. As fate would have it, James Hayward had travelled up by car with two of our front row and he suffered mechanical problems on the A14, causing the coach to travel back towards Cambridge to pick up the stranded players. As a consequence the team finally arrived at a windswept Southwold dead on 14.00 the appointed time for the start of the match.
We arrived changed and ready to play and the kick-off was put back twenty minutes. Jonny Heaver was captain in the absence of Richard Knight, with Ollie Townsend filling in at scrum half. The Cantabs bench was as strong as I had seen it this season; Ed Foster, Dean James and Tom Skelton trying to keep warm in a howling gale with driving rain coming onto the common off the sea. Pretty normal for Southwold in December according to Al Sadler.
Cantabs kicked off with the wind behind them and were soon camped in the Wold 22. Two scrums later and James Hayward had forgotten his travelling woes and slipped through a large gap in the defence to run over the try line and score close to the posts. The conversion made it 0 - 7 with some of the lunch guests still struggling to make the touchline.
Southwold made it to our 22 from the restart but spilled the ball and Hayward promptly kicked them back to their own 22. Then Southwold forwards showed just how to counter the slope and the wind, with drive after drive into a blue and white wall. It took them ten minutes to get back to the Cantabs 22, only to see the same result as we finally managed to kick the ball back again.
Cantabs scrum was coming off worse at this stage and any lineout other than to the front was carried away by the wind, Southwold were certainly coping with the conditions better. I recall one scrum which we did win, only to see Hayward's kick from our 10m line to the right touchline, ending up closer to the left and going out of play. Southwold kicked clear after another Cantabs sortie into the opposition 22, Francois caught and ran the ball back, Danny Richards took over at the breakdown and surged forward back into the red zone but the ball was ripped from him.
Southwold ground out the phases yet again and this time made faster progress to get within kicking range on the edge of our 22. They won a penalty for offside, and stole a couple of metres as the physio came on, enabling their kicker to take the three points as his low kick just scraped over the bar; 3 - 7.
Southwold then enjoyed their best spell as we approached half time. A penalty got them way into our 22, they opted for the scrum and drove us back, No 8 took on the Cantabs defence and Drew Tilley did very well to get a hand under the ball as he made the line. The resulting scrum produced the same result but this time Cantabs couldn't prevent the score. The conversion followed and with the whistle going for the half we had to turn around behind at 10 - 7.
There were no immediate changes from Glen at half time. The Southwold restart kick was spilled deep inside our 22 and the Wold pack drove us back towards the try line. Cantabs were now defending desperately and conceded a penalty. Yet another scrum was chosen and again we were driven back. Their back row took over and appeared to make the line, but Sir had spotted a double movement, and from 5m out Hayward found touch on the 22.
As it turned out that was the turning point of the game. Glen brought Dean James on at blindside and the towering Ed Foster on at second row with Jonny replacing Nuggett in the front row. The wind had dropped a little, the rain had stopped and Cantabs started to play some neat passing rugby. Danny Richards and Dean James surged forward, Finn Morrison was always available for Ollie and James as our halfbacks looked for support. The Southwold scrum was now going backwards so their coach changed his tight head to address the problem. We started to win the odd line out with a new option of Ed at the front and Cantabs worked the ball into the Wold 22.
One mistake, a big kick out of defence and we were back at square one. Southwold then pushed us back into the left hand corner with a penalty kick, won the lineout and tried to maul the ball over. The penalty followed and again they elected for a scrum, the home side for once messed up and when Cantabs passed out of the dead ball area, a deliberate knock on gave James a chance to kick clear. He did this to very good effect making touch on our 10m line and from that point on it was all Cantabs. Drew took a knock inside the Wold 22 as Cantabs forced the pace. He was replaced by Tom Skelton, Jonny Regan moved to centre and Tom replaced him at full-back
From the lineout, Cantabs shifted the ball over to the left wing and Francois kept the ball alive, drawing the penalty. Ollie took a tap and surged forward found Finn in support and suddenly there was our new full back overlapping on the left. Tom ran the ball around to get closer to the posts, and Cantabs were ahead again at 10 - 12; James kick was taken away on the wind towards the clubhouse.
Cantabs continued to make all the attacking moves and when Sir announced last move at the lineout, Rich Ford got the ball to Hayward who joyfully kicked away towards the sea; job done. Our third away victory on the run and Cantabs clawed their way a further place up the league. Ollie Townsend was awarded man of the match by the coaches.
We can now look forward to two home games at Sedley Taylor Road prior to Christmas. First second place Romford then Saffron Walden and our Christmas lunch on the 15th; tow cracking games to come to see out 2018; don't miss them!