Wanstead away is never an easy fixture as we have proved over the years, but good to be back to see their fantastic new facility; with an extra floodlit pitch right outside the extended and renovated clubhouse, courtesy of a deal to take the spoil from the HS2 project.
Cantabs had two new faces in the 1st XV squad; Jack Caldwell on the right wing and James McCaskie joined Ed Foster and Dean James in a very strong bench. Jos Crush was at 10 and James Hayward was spectating on the line to give support, still recovering from ankle ligament damage. Cantabs were hoping to consolidate on that first league win against Wymondham.
We kicked off with the breeze behind us and with Wanstead spilling the drop-out Cantabs mounted a strong attack only to see a pass intercepted and the opposition winger raced down the touchline and was only halted metres from our try-line. Wanstead then dominated the early exchanges and came close twice only to be denied by some rigorous defence. Jos tried to kick over the defence and only just failed to collect the bouncing ball, but Wanstead came back at strongly, won a penalty just outside our 22 on the left. The kick made the corner and from a well won lineout they switched play neatly through the backs out to the right where their speedy winger took the honours with a try at the corner flag. The conversion kick against the wind from the touchline was immaculate; 7 - 0 to Wanstead after just eight minutes.
Early penalties were not going our way and in particular our scrum was continually penalised, even though their loose head seemed to be coming out of his binding at every push. Because of these constant breaks in play we were not getting any real time on the ball. Our defensive tackling and speed into the breakdown from our back row was exemplary however, and time and again Cantabs were able to disrupt or steal possession from the opposition.
Cantabs finally got into Wanstead 22 but were again penalised at the lineout. Jos tried a couple more kicks over the defence but had no luck with these. But, Cantabs were now getting into the game more and Ollie did make the try line only to spill the ball. Then a lovely interchange on the left wing between Noah Poulson and Alan Barker, saw Alan race down the touchline to score in the corner. Finlay Laing matched his opposite number with a lovely conversion from the touchline, and we were all square at 7 - 7.
Perksy caught the restart kick beautifully, went off at a charge, made 30 metres and set up another Cantabs attack. We spilled the ball and again got penalised at the scrum with their prop standing up yet again. Cantabs were not to be denied however, Jos kicked a penalty to the right hand corner, Rich Ford caught the lineout, and set up the forwards. Jonny Heaver took a crash ball to the line, and Tom Bailey was next and nobody was going to deny him the score. 7 - 12 and it stayed that way with Finlay's conversion attempt coming back off the woodwork. Halftime.
Glen did have a quiet word with Sir at the break, and initially Wanstead looked strong again, but when the first scrum happened a few minutes into the second half, and their man popped up again, we won the penalty. Cantabs were tackling like demons, our line speed was excellent, and with Wanstead looking a bit jaded, Cantabs started to get on top. We won a lineout 35 metres out on the left, took the ball and Danny shot through their defence, and made it all the way to the line for a great try. Finlay's kick faded away past the post, but Cantabs were sitting pretty at 7 - 17. Dean James, just off night shift, took over from Finn Morrison at this point. Jonny Heaver took a well-earned break as well bringing Ed Foster into the game. Cantabs were now calling the shots. Deano was immediately in the action, powering into tackle after tackle, and Wanstead were pushed back. Another penalty to us from a scrum, Jos found the right hand corner, Ford caught and we mauled the ball over for try number four and the bonus point. This time Ed Foster took the honours, and Cantabs were away at 7 - 22.
James McCaskie then replaced Francois in the centre, but the pattern of play was unaltered with Wanstead going backward even when they were mounting attacks, such was the ferocity of the Cantabs tackling. Finn Morrison replaced Rich Ford, who had taken a slight knock, with Tom Stace moving to second row. What a pack we have at the moment with cover throughout every position.
Jos saved a certain try when Wanstead took a quick tap close to our line on a rare visit to our 22, but he had not retreated 10m and was yellow-carded. Wanstead were not to be denied however and finally scored to the left of the posts, made the conversion and brought the score back to some respectability at 14 - 22. Time was almost up and Tom Bailey destroyed the next and last Wanstead attack in a typical Tom Bailey way taking man and ball and breaking clear like a human bulldozer. And, that was that; final score 14 - 22.
Cantabs played by far their best rugby of the season, and on this form will give most teams a good game at this level. High-flying Chelmsford are our next opponents at Sedley Taylor Road next week. There is a pre-match lunch courtesy of Chef Jeff Railton, and for those of you with the stamina and staying power there is a Halloween Party to follow in the clubhouse. If you have not yet made it down to the club to watch the lads, perhaps next weekend is the time to do so; I think you might be in for a treat.
1 Ben Tozer, 2 Tom Bailey, 3 Jon Perks, 4 Jonny Heaver, 5 Rich Ford, 6 Tom Stace, 7 Finn Morrison, 8 Danny Richards (capt), 9 Ollie Townsend, 10 Jos Crush, 11 Noah Poulson, 12 Alan Barker, 13 Francois Eve, 14 Jack Caldwell, 15 Finlay Laing, 16 Ed Foster, 17 Dean James, 18 James McCaskie.
Tries: Alan Barker, Ed Foster, Danny Richards, and Tom Bailey. Conversion: Finlay Laing