The Cantabs 1st XV squad for this tough encounter with an in-form Thetford team was bolstered by the addition of Paul Pudney at outside centre and Isaia Barbieri, who started as cover for the front row. All in all, 16 of last week's squad were available. We last played the Norfolk side in our unbeaten season of 2011/12. The Cantabs pack included current captain Danny Richards and four prior year captains; so plenty of experience on show.
Cantabs kicked off up the slope on a good pitch in perfect rugby weather, no wind and no rain, which made a welcome change after two weeks of precipitation. Keith Kent, the Twickenham groundsman, had congratulated Thetford on one of the best pitches he had seen, in his recent visit, to the credit of the home club. We were soon on the attack and Finlay Laing kicked us into the left corner with a penalty. Danny was illegally taken out in the air at the lineout and he opted for a scrum on 5m. We saw Jonny Heaver go close, but the ball was then moved wide and the move lost with a knock on. However, Thetford lost their scrum but somehow scrambled the ball back into the dead ball area. Cantabs then dominated the resulting 5m scrum and Danny finished the job by scoring as the pack trundled Thetford back to the try line. Finlay completed the scoring; 0 - 7 after four minutes play.
Thetford did then put some moves together, and when Cantabs were caught offside their fullback hit a good penalty from 30m out to narrow the gap to 3 - 7 with fourteen minutes gone. Next chance for Cantabs followed a long penalty kick from Finlay which pushed Thetford back into their 22, and our back row were up quickly enough to force the error and win a penalty. Finlay did make touch into the left hand corner this time. Pete Collins secured the lineout, and Thetford were penalised. Danny opted for the scrum 10m out. Again there was no stopping our pack and Danny repeated the punishment with his second try. That one was not converted, but Cantabs were away at 3 - 12.
The Thetford fullback was having a good game, swallowing up our long clearances and giving as good back. Then having the space from yet another long kick from Finlay, he decided to run the ball back and evading several attempts to tackle moved play from his 22 to our 22, where he kicked into the corner. Luke Farrow gathered the ball in our dead ball area and sped off down the right wing. He just failed to get his pass away on our 10m line and Thetford regained possession with the pass adjudged forward. Cantabs promptly won took their scrum against the head, and Adam Fastnedge kicked diagonally into space in the left hand corner. Francois Eve forced the error and Finlay again kicked to the corner. Pete Collins caught, the maul was too strong and too organised for Thetford and when the maul collapsed Danny broke clear and forced his way over the line for his hat trick of tries; 3 - 17. The Thetford openside was yellow carded for ten for pulling down our maul. Thetford did move the scoreboard with another well struck penalty from 30m, so the score at half time was 6 - 17.
No changes from Glen at half time. Thetford did force their way into our 22, with a penalty, and a second penalty saw them taking a 5m lineout, but our defence was again too good. Five minutes into the second half, Perksy had a break and Isaia Barbieri took his place in the front row. Rich Ford replaced Jonny Heaver at 2nd row. Cantabs continued to dominate the set pieces and from a scrum Luke Farrow got a way on the right and was only stopped by a high tackle. Cantabs continued to dominate, with Francois and Luke combining to put Paul Pudney away on the left, only to see him tackled into touch ten metres out. Tom Bailey and Rich Ford started to knock holes in the Thetford defence with purposeful drives in the Thetford 22, and the try looked sure to follow. The try did come, Tom Bailey again broke through a couple of tackles, Francois bullied his was forward the ball was recycled quickly and Francois was again on hand to score to wide on the left; 6 - 22 and the try bonus point was secured.
Thetford came back strongly and won a penalty to gain a 5m lineout. Cantabs knocked on and a 5m scrum followed. Cantabs took that one against the head and decided to run it! Finlay kicked long down the left, the Thetford fullback returned the favour, but Luke Farrow caught the ball and set off at speed diagonally over to the right, his pass found Tom Bailey in support and from 30m out he had the strength and power to out pace the defence and scored in the corner. Again Finlay failed with yet another kick from the touchline, which hit the post this time, but Cantabs were well on top at 6 - 27. Drew Tilley came on for Paul Pudney and Perksy replaced Ben Tozer up front.
Cantabs were now really throwing the ball about and even Isaia was getting into the action, Thetford looked a beaten side. Adam Fastnedge, inside the opposition 22, dinked a kick forward towards the posts. Ollie Townsend was quickest to react and when about to be tackled, he shifted the ball left to a supporting Francois, who scored at ease under the posts. No mistake from Finlay; 6 - 34.
Now it was a case of just how many tries Cantabs could score in the final ten minutes. Like Farrow was the first to go close, just failing in the right hand corner. Cantabs were not to be denied, Finn Morrison to Tom Bailey, back to Finn for try number seven; 6 - 41. The last try was deservedly scored by Luke in the right hand corner after some great supporting play by Francois, Finlay was off at that point and Adam hurriedly took the kick, as Cantabs were being urged to make it 50 points. That was not to be and the clock ran down at 6 - 46.
A great performance from a rampant Cantabs team in the second half after the pack had broken the Thetford hearts in the first half. Man of the match went to Pete Collins for his work in the loose and in the lineout, but it was difficult to find anyone who had not had a good game. That is now over six hours of rugby since Cantabs last conceded a try, and with James Hayward, Kieran Dolaghan, Dean James and Richard Knight to come back into the squad, it will take a good side to beat us again this season.
And, with our 2nd XV beating Shelford 3rds under their lights on Friday evening, it made for a great weekend for the Club. Now book your places at the lunch next week when a resurgent Thurston are the visitors. It's certainly a season for tries; Will tells me that the Club are up to 98 for the season already.
1 Ben Tozer, 2 Tom Bailey, 3 Jon Perks, 4 Jonny Heaver, 5 Ed Foster,
6 Pete Collins, 7 Finn Morrison, 8 Danny Richards (capt), 9 Ollie Townsend, 10 Finlay Laing,
11 Fergus Wilson, 12 Adam Fastnedge, 13 Paul Pudney, 14 Luke Farrow, 15 Francois Eve,
16 Isaia Barbieri, 17 Richard Ford, 18 Andrew Tilley.
Our 2nd XV who were away to Shelford 3rds, result 10 - 15 to Cantabs
1 Tim Charles, 2 Charlie Norrish, 3 Shane Rea, 4 Ollie Dakin, 5 Archie Miller,
6 Will Rix, 7 James Balfe, 8 Luke Marfleet, 9 Gary Nightingale (capt), 10 Jos Crush,
11 Rowan Haines, 12 Tristan James, 13 Matthew Prowse, 14 Daniel Soanes, 15 Henri Cherrington,
16 Ryan Moclair, 17 Nat Higginbotham.