The 1st XV were off down the A14 to visit Woodbridge for the first time in seven seasons. Just a few changes in the starting line-up for this London 3 encounter. The forwards were unchanged, but three changes to the backs. James Hayward was back from his travels and took over at fly-half after missing the last three games. Francois Eve was still recovering from a calf problem. Paul Pudney took his slot on the left wing and at outside centre Cantabs had the evergreen Drew Tilley. Woodbridge were within a point of beating league leaders West Norfolk in the RFU Senior Cup last week, so a close game was anticipated.
Your correspondent arrived five minutes into the game, and was just in time to see Woodbridge take the lead with a well struck penalty from 30m, which had been 40m out until an unguarded comment saw Sir push us back towards the posts; 3 - 0. Cantabs were already posting their intention to move the ball wide and Finlay Laing, coming into the line was close to escaping down the right wing before being tackled into touch on the 22. A deliberate knock down by the Warriors could have been penalised, but Cantabs were awarded the scrum instead. Already the Cantabs scrum was dominating, and this against a pack that had to date enjoyed a lot of success. Another good Cantabs move was spoiled by a forward pass to Ed Foster, but Woodbridge were then forced to defend the scrum ten metres out from their posts. At this stage the penalty count against Cantabs was racking up and again the opportunity to score was lost. The next score went to the home side, despite all the pressure from Cantabs. This time it was an off side 35m out and again Woodbridge took full advantage; 6 - 0. 15 minutes gone and for the first time in many weeks, Cantabs were chasing the game.
For some reason, Woodbridge had stopped competing on our lineout ball, so Pete Collins was taking everything in the air, and we hardly saw a scrum when the opposition pack was not retreating , such was the domination Cantabs had in the scrum; surely the pressure would tell? Sure enough, a lineout just in our half went unopposed, Jonny Heaver and Pete Collins worked the ball down the right, and when Pete's pass found Luke Farrow he jinked past two tackles and shot down the wing to score in the corner. Finlay's kick faded past the post, but Cantabs were on the scoreboard at 6 - 5.
Cantabs tackles were starting to bite, and when the Warriors got the ball they always had a blue and white shirt as company. Cantabs forced the error, the scrum gave our halfbacks the chance and Hayward put Paul Pudney away on the left; our winger meeting the pass at speed. He was brought up short, but recycled the ball well to allow Hayward to spread the ball wide to the right. Cantabs won a penalty in the corner and when Warriors had not fully retreated and the first attack broke down, Cantabs second penalty was tapped to Tom Bailey and he took man and ball over the line to score in the same corner; 6 - 12 as this time Finlay's conversion was on the money.
Woodbridge missed another attempt at goal with a penalty from 35m as our lineout was penalised, but now all the attacking was coming from Cantabs, with Hayward looping round time and again and invariably throwing out long missed-man passes towards the wings. Woodbridge did go close with a good run, but the final pass was dropped with the line beckoning. Two scrums later and the Warriors had changed their hooker. Another long range attempt from the Woodbridge kicker missed. Cantabs worked their way back from the restart, and Luke Farrow had another great run down the right covering 40 metres. He managed to hold on long enough in the tackle for the support to arrive in the shape of Finn Morrison. He took the ball at the ruck and found space down the right wing. His run took him within a metre of the try line as he cut back inside, and support was there again with Ollie Townsend scooping up the ball to score our third try. Finlay seemed to take an age with this conversion and when he finally started forward, the Woodbridge runners were practically at the ball, but we were going clear at 6 - 17. No further score before the half finished.
No changes at half time from Glen and Cantabs now had the breeze behind them as Woodbridge kicked off towards the town end. Cantabs continued as they had left off, Tom Bailey had two powerful runs which almost made scores, he really is a powerful runner this season. Cantabs, who had been holding the ball at the back of the scrum in the first half to wear down the opposition, were now moving the ball immediately to the backs. However, it was a lineout midway into the opposition half on the left, that gave rise to the next score. Woodbridge failed to compete the ball was shifted wide through the backs and Hayward's pass found Farrow 20 metres out. Luke stepped inside and then immediately to the right, left his opposite number for dead as he beat him on the outside and ran round to give Finlay a better shot at the conversion: 6 - 24 just five minutes into the second half. Try bonus point gained for the ninth match in a row!
Five minutes later, Glen called the changes: Isaia Barbieri was replaced by Ben Tozer and Ben Newman replaced Drew Tilley, with Paul Pudney moving to outside centre, allowing Ben too assume his normal winger role. For the scrum, there was no apparent change, Woodbridge were still being pushed back and when they did mount the odd attack our defence was just too good, or Hayward kicked long to make the opposition make the hard yards again.
The next score followed a Cantabs scrum on the left, Danny Richards decided to go down the blindside and moved well into the 22. When Bailey took over the ball ten metres out, he kept his feet through three attempted tackles and took the last defender over with him as he dived over the line. Finlay's kick hit the flag on the top of the left hand post, but stayed out; 6 - 29.
Laurence Jones then came on for Pete Collins, with 20 minutes to go. Woodbridge were awarded another penalty on the left, well within kicking range, but opted to kick to the corner, and missed. It just was not going to be their day. For the next period, with Woodbridge trying to score, Cantabs gave another ten metres away for back chat, and still the home side failed to capitalise when we were back on our own try line. Sir read the riot act to Cantabs and warned that the next offender would be in the bin. Then, Tom Bailey was penalised for playing the ball on the ground and inevitably took a ten minute rest. Perksy was accosted by Nos 7 and 8 and retaliated with his best hand bag; another chat with Sir ensued and the game rather deteriorated. Jonny Heaver took over at hooker and still the Warriors pack went backwards.
Ed Foster was substituted by Pete Collins and Perksy, with his handbag, was replaced by Isaia. Ben Newman took a great catch from a long Warriors clearing kick and made good ground with an incisive run down the left wing. Finn Morrison, still tackling like a demon, caught a knock on his right knee, and was substituted with Ed Foster back on again. Tom Bailey resumed where he left off ten minutes earlier and was after his hat trick. Luke Farrow went really close to his third try, forcing Woodbridge to touch down in goal. From the 5m scrum there was only going to be one result. The scrum duly performed as did, our captain. Danny scored, Finlay converted and that was that; final score
6 - 36.
Man of the match was Luke Farrow for his outstanding finishing. Jonny Heaver ran him close for his work in the dark places and his intelligent off-loads. Tom Bailey would have been in the running but for that yellow card and we all wonder why Pete Collins had a year out from the game; he is playing better than ever. James Hayward, we rather take for granted; great to see him back. Cantabs are still a point behind West Norfolk at the top of the division, after our rivals secured a bonus point win at Ely. Next week Ely travel to Sedley Taylor Road, for what promises to be a great local derby. Don't miss it!
1 Isaia Barbieri, 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 James Hayward,
11 Luke Farrow, 12 Adam Fastnedge, 13 Andrew Tilley, 14 Paul Pudney, 15 Kieran Dolaghan,
16 Ben Tozer, 17 Laurence Jones, 18 Ben Newman.