It was probably fifteen years ago that we last met, but Cantabs were delighted to host Fakenham at Sedley Road this afternoon. Cantabs were missing three players from our last league match three weeks ago: James Hayward and Isaia Barbieri were unavailable, and Dean James had broken his collar bone against Cottenham. But it was welcome back to Ollie Townsend at scrum-half after a month out with a back injury. Kieran Dolaghan moved to full-back, with Finlay Laing taking over at flyhalf.
Cantabs kicked off on a damp pitch following two days of rain and were soon camped on the edge of the Fakenham 22. The first two scrums showed that Cantabs were likely to dominate, with the Fakenham front row struggling to counter the power of our pack. The second scrum brought Cantabs a penalty just twelve metres out from the line. Tom Bailey took the tap and blasted his way through the defence to score at the posts. Finlay made it 7 - 0 after just four minutes.
Fakenham showed some fight and a well struck penalty brought play deep into the Cantabs 22. However, Cantabs took the lineout and worked the way back up the field with some lovely interpassing. The move broke down on the Fakenham 10m line and although Cantabs continued to dominate for the first quarter of an hour, our final pass was always lacking and Fakenham held on. Indeed, the next score went to the visitors with a very well struck penalty from 30m out to narrow the score to 7 - 3.
Cantabs continued to throw the ball around, and even when the ball was spilled, Fakenham tended to lose possession on the next scrum. So this pattern continued and with the Fakenham front row requiring regular treatment after each scrum, Cantabs now dominated. Fakenham also appeared to have stop competing at lineouts, where Rich Ford was having a hay day. Cantabs continued to go close, Kieran Dolaghan spilled the ball with the try line beckoning, but Sir took play right back for a Cantabs penalty to the opposite left hand touchline, just ten metres out from goal. Danny chose the scrum option, and Fakenham had no answer, Ollie taking the honours. Finlay hit a beautiful conversion to make the score 14 - 3 after half an hour of play.
Cantabs now were well on top. Rich Ford collected the ball at a lineout on out 10m line, found himself unchallenged as he landed and galloped forward down the left hand touch line. The play moved onto the Fakenham 22, Tom Bailey charged through a non-existent gap and offloaded at the line to a grateful Adam Fastnedge; 21 - 3. The next try followed soon after. Fakenham had brought play well inside our 22, with a grubber kick to the left hand corner. Again our lineout went unchallenged and our backs worked the ball up to half way. Fastnedge kicked ahead and Luke Farrow, who had moved over to the right wing was brought into play. He sped down the wing and dived under the cover tackle to score at the corner flag. This time Finlay could not add to the tally, but Cantabs had their bonus point as we reached halftime at 26 - 3.
The weather was becoming increasingly gloomy as play restarted, and Cantabs were back on the offensive with a penalty to the right hand corner. Fakenham's woes increased with one of their props sent to the sin bin for constant back-chatting. Cantabs were held up over the line, so a five metre uncontested scrum followed. Ollie shifted the ball smartly to the right and Kieran took advantage to score virtually unopposed; 31 - 3. Ed Foster replaced Jonny Heaver and Charlie Norrish moved to blindside instead of Pete Collins. Cantabs were now rampant, Fakenham were penalised ten metres at the next breakdown. Ollie kicked wide to the right where Adam took the ball in his stride to score our sixth try and Finlay added the extra two; 38 - 3.
The next try came from a long kick to the corner from Finlay. Their fullback contrived to juggle the ball into the path of Kieran who gratefully accepted the chance for his second try; 43 - 3. Try number eight went to Finn Morrison with yet another of his darting runs, this time into the right hand corner; a well deserved reward for all the crash balls and runs he had been making through the afternoon. Finlay made it 50 - 3.
Tom Bailey repeated the medicine with another crushing run to the right hand corner and we were at 55 - 3. By now Fakenham were a beaten side, and Ed Foster crashed over for try number ten, Finlay again adding the extra two; bringing the score to 62 - 3. We were now uncontested in the scrums and still uncontested in the lineouts; and mostly uncontested in the loose as well. Cantabs continued to pile on the agony as the game reached a conclusion. But there was still time for a last try and again it went to Kieran, his hat trick, following an Fakenham uncontested scrum which saw them lose possession to Cantabs on the edge of their own 22. Final score 69 - 3.
Cantabs moved closer to West Norfolk at the top of the division, and now have a vastly superior points difference. My player of the match was Finn Morrison. As Greg Alvey so aptly put it after the game he seems to be able to play openside flanker and inside centre in the same game. He and Perksy took so many crash balls that I lost count. Tozer and Bailey were not far behind in their willingness to create gaps where gaps did not exist. The whole team played some great handling rugby and on this form it will take a good side to beat them.
Next match is away to a resurgent Thetford who have beaten Ely and kept West Norfolk to within seven points this week.
1 Ben Tozer, 2 Tom Bailey, 3 Jon Perks, 4 Jonny Heaver, 5 Richard Ford,
6 Pete Collins, 7 Finn Morrison, 8 Danny Richards (capt), 9 Ollie Townsend, 10 Finlay Laing,
11 Francois Eve, 12 Adam Fastnedge, 13 Andrew Tilley, 14 Luke Farrow, 15 Kieran Dolaghan,
16 Ed Foster, 17 Charles Norrish, 18 Fergus Wilson.