Cantabs travelled to Upminster knowing that it was here that our promotion hopes were destroyed last season. James Hayward was making his debut in the 1st XV at fullback, but otherwise it was mostly "no change" after the previous week's mud lark. Jon Perks started at tight head and Thom Bailey was back on the bench having recovered from injury.
Cantabs kicked off on an excellent pitch and had chosen to play against the slope in the first half, hoping to restrict their opponents in the first period. Cantabs were soon on the attach and a rolling maul moved play up to the Us 22 and at that point won a penalty. David Reed demonstrated his growing confidence as a kicker by slotting home the kick from 25m after just three minutes.
Another long kick for touch brought play deep inside the opponents 22, and Seb Trower stole the lineout throw, to put Upminster in deep trouble. Again the Essex men were penalised and Dan Searle opted for the scrum. Cantabs made no mistake from 6m out, Seb controlling the ball at the base had a straightforward task to dive on the ball as the scrum moved over the line. Another great conversion from wide on the right from Davis and with just eight minutes on the clock we were 0 - 10.
The next scrum went to Upminster but the result was still the same, and the Upminster pack in complete disarray, conceded the penalty. David struck the ball well to find the left hand corner this time. Charlie's throw was caught by Seb and as he hit the ground the maul formed. This time however, Perksy was not waiting, he shot around the blindside and dived over near the corner flag. David's kick was low and short, but Cantabs were truly in the driving seat at 0 - 15.
Next score came from a penalty when Upminster were caught offside at the ruck; 0 - 18.
However, Upminster backs then showed some real speed with a great flowing move out of their own half, following a long clearance. The left winger somehow avoided three attempts to tackle him and touched down in the corner; 5 - 18 with 23 minutes gone.
The referee then objected to a short spell of handbags which followed an infringement in a ruck on our 10m line. Each side was reduced to 14 men; Finn Morrison being our recipient of the yellow card. Cantabs' penalty stood and David again found touch 10m from the Us line. Seb caught the lineout, the rolling maul formed, we moved relentlessly to the line and this time Pete Collins was the beneficiary and David made the extra to bring us to 5 - 25.
Yet another dominant Cantabs pack gave Seb the chance of a score from the base of the scrum. He shot through a gaggle of defenders and but for a trip 5m out, which allowed the defence to move him into touch, he would have added to the score. Nick Denham then combined with Seb to knock holes in the central defence. David's penalty kick to the corner yet again, brought our lineout into play. This time Cantabs switched play centrally with Dave Evershed rampaging forward and off-loaded under the posts to a grateful Pete Collins for the try. No problem for David and the score now 5 - 32.
Next try followed great link play from Seb and James Hayward, who then combined with Finn Morrison to put the free running Seb in at the right hand corner. Another immaculate conversion from way out from David and Cantabs were dominant at 5 - 39. Sir blew time and at that point the Upminster supporters seemed to have mostly resigned themselves to defeat and the comfort of their clubhouse.
Mick brought all his bench into play at the start of the second half with the Searle brothers and Jonnie Heaver giving way. Cantabs were soon under way again with the familiar pattern of kick to the left hand corner. Thom Bailey's throw found Seb, we mauled the ball and Pete Collins completed his hat-trick of tries in the corner. Yet again David made the conversion from way out wide; 5 - 46.
At this point Upminster had a good ten minute spell as Cantabs seemed to go to sleep. We were confined to our 22 and to make matters worse, Thom Bailey was awarded a yellow for handling in the ruck. Cantabs finally broke clear, but Harri Beasley's wayward pass was intercepted and the Upminster centre put his winger clear for a score in the corner. No conversion but the score had moved to 10- 46.
With 20 minutes to go Cantabs were restored to 15. This seemed to wake up our team and it was a storming run from Perksy and a well timed pass to his left that gave Ben James a try to the left of the posts. David missed the conversion for once but we were now rolling again at 10 - 51.
Another strong run from full-back by Nick Denham, followed up by Finn with a decisive break through the middle, gave Seb the chance for his second try, virtually unopposed. No problem for David to add the extra two making the score 10 - 58.
Final try came from yet another set play, this time a scrum. Josh brought James Hayward into play and he raced through to score his debut try. David converted and Sir settled the match at that point; 10 - 65.
Great team work from Cantabs, our first ever win at Upminster, and with Sudbury just managing a 10 all draw at Harlow we moved within eight points of them. The game on 7th March against Sudbury at Sedley Taylor Road promises to be a good one!
It was the set plays and our fly-half's kicking which made the result a formality. This win brought our "points for" to 734 after 16 league matches, and with just two further away fixtures to come, promotion is still very much on the cards.