After a three week break Cantabs were keen to get their push for promotion back on the road. Fakenham were the hosts for the first time for around fourteen years and having beaten Ely and competed well against league leaders West Norfolk, a competitive game was expected. Ed Foster turned an ankle in training and Rich Ford was late arriving, so Jonny Heaver was partnered by Pete Collins at 2nd row and Harry Hill was at blindside as the match started. Right winger Luke Farrow had returned from his extended travelling break and we looked forward to seeing him speeding down the flanks. The wind was vicious and true to recent form, Cantabs kicked off into the teeth of the gale; the pitch was in excellent condition.
The drop-out was brought back for a centre spot scrum and Cantabs immediately pressured Fakenham into kicking the ball dead beyond their try line. The resultant 5m scrum to Cantabs, saw Fakenham pushed back beyond their line and Danny Richards touched down to the left of the goal. Finlay's kick into the wind failed to reach the goal, but with just two minutes gone, Cantabs were 0 - 5 to the good. Already Cantabs scrum was dominant and Pete Collins stole the first two Fakenham lineouts. Cantabs were already showing some lovely close passing and our backs were forcing the game with some great running. Inevitably the wind was often spoiling the moves, but with our scrum well on top, the ball was soon back in Cantabs' hands. If Fakenham got the ball, they kicked back with the wind and Cantabs had to start again. One move in particular saw the ball moved from our 22 to the Fakenham 22 with some exquisite passing. Ollie tried a quick tapped penalty and was hindered by the Fakenham flyhalf; earning him a yellow card.
Luke Farrow was a thorn in the Fakenham defence, always seeming to be able to step past tackles, as he skipped through and round the defenders. But it was the pack that eventually created the next score after 15 minutes of Cantabs attacks ad some desperate Fakenham defence. We won a penalty from a deliberate knock-on, in the opposition 22, and elected to go for the scrum. The pack locked the ball in and trundled forward. Then Danny spotted the gap and went for the line from 10m out. There was no stopping him, and with Finlay's conversion it was Cantabs ahead at 0 - 12.
Fakenham and the wind conspired to make scoring difficult, and it was fully quarter of an hour later before James Hayward made the next score with a typical break on the left, again following a scrum. Two side steps fooled the defence and he scored halfway out to the left hand touchline. On a normal day, Finlay would have gone close, but this time the wind took the ball away from the goal and it landed in touch in the right hand corner. But Cantabs were deservedly ahead at 0 - 17.
Then an errant Cantabs pass was intercepted and Fakenham were able to run the ball in under our posts; 7 - 17. Luke Farrow went close on the right wing with a lovely run, and would have also scored had not the final pass of another good Cantabs break been on the money. There was no further score as the half finished.
Rich Ford replaced Harry Hill at half time. Then Cantabs lost their scrum half when Ollie was adjudged not to have retired 10m from a tapped penalty. Immediately, James Hayward took a knock to his right thigh and was limping off as well. Finlay Laing went to flyhalf and Adam Fastnedge to scrum half and Fakenham sensed blood; enjoying their best spell of the game as Cantabs readjusted. At that same time Fakenham had to make an enforced change as one of their own was helped from the pitch. Fakenham attacked down their left wing and it took a try-saving tackle from Luke to prevent the score. Only minutes later we saw a repeat attack down the left and yet another great tackle from Luke. But this time, his man struggled back to his feet and scored out wide. Remarkably this one was converted, so Fakenham were right back in the game at 14 - 17, and an upset was on the cards.
Then some order was finally restored, a quick tap on the edge of the Fakenham 22 from a returned Ollie, and Captain Danny was on hand to scythe his way through to score at the posts; 14 - 24 and the try bonus point secured. It was also Danny's fourth hat trick in the last four games. Finlay was now in his element with massive kicks from his own half drifting left and well into the opposition half, time and time again as Fakenham moves broke down. Cantabs were now rampant and Fakenham were visibly tiring against some stirring Cantabs attacking. Finn Morrison was breaking the tackle with every surge through the middle and Jonny Heaver and Perksy were blasting holes in the Fakenham defence. The next score came from a Townsend break, and left winger Rowan Haines was the beneficiary, with his inaugural try for the 1st XV; 14 - 29. Then Perksy broke clear 35m out, set up by a Rich Ford break, and we held our breaths as the line got closer. Perksy seemed to be stumbling 10m out, but just got his pass away to his right. Ollie caught it off his boot laces and scored at the posts; 14 - 36 with Finlay's drop kick conversion.
Glen then brought on fresh legs in the shape of Archie Miller and Dan Reed and Cantabs continued with their try feast. Danny Richards weaved his way through the defence to set up Ben Newman for the next try. Again Finlay drop kicked the conversion from the touchline;14 - 43. Harry Hill replaced Pete Collins, who must have won a dozen Fakenham lineouts in the first hour alone.
Adam Fastnedge got the next following yet another scrum that locked in the Fakenham defence, this one to the right of the post and Finlay nonchalantly drop-kicked the conversion; 14 - 50.
Ben Newman again made the break for the next try, passed to Ollie, who sold an outrageous dummy to the left and sailed over for his own hat trick of tries. Finlay hit his dropped conversion from the left hand out wide to the right and it sailed over on the wind; 14 - 57.
The next try went to Fakenham, following a quick tapped penalty, with their lanky scrum half losing three Cantabs tacklers to score at the posts; 21 - 57. Well deserved it was, for a home side that never gave up despite being on the receiving end of some incessant Cantabs attacking. But, there was still time for yet another Cantabs attack. Finlay kicked long to the left hand corner, Ford took the lineout and our maul formed and moved towards the line. Suddenly, Sir was running to the posts, penalty try had been awarded. Final score 21 - 64.
Ollie Townsend was named man of the match and dick of the day for getting yellow carded. In the conditions, it was a wonderful display of forward power and attacking rugby from the backs. It is going to take a good side to stop this Cantabs run of bonus point wins. In the 14 league games played (Beccles conceded their home game), Cantabs have scored 769 points and conceded just 139.
Next Saturday the opponents at Sedley Taylor Road are Thetford. Book your place at the pre-match lunch and then watch one of the best Cantabs teams we have seen in the last 20 odd years.
.1 Isaia Barbieri, 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 James Hayward,
11 Rowan Haines, 12 Adam Fastnedge, 13 Ben Newman, 14 Luke Farrow, 15 Finlay Laing,
16 Harry Hill, 17 Archie Miller, 18 Dan Reed.