It was a perfect autumn day for rugby, enough warmth to discard coats for the touchline members; no wind, and a yielding pitch with a good layer of grass. Winger Ben Newman was a last minute replacement when Alan Barker was an injury with-drawl; Francois Eve moving to inside centre. It was also a welcome return from injury for Finn Morrison and Rich Ford in the pack. Dean James was back at scrum half, with Ollie moving to flyhalf.
Wymondham kicked off towards the railway and were soon on top with their young flyhalf calling the shots. Cantabs finally gained some ground and won a penalty, but Finlay's kick just failed to make touch and the chance for points in the corner had gone. Cantabs passing was too wild and Wymondham backs looked the more likely to make progress, but spilled another attack in our 22 and we saw the first scrum after ten minutes play; Cantabs doing just enough to clear their lines.
Cantabs were lucky when Wymondham again spilled the ball seven metres from the try line following desperate defence against two attacking moves from the Wymondham backs. Cantabs were finding Charlie Delaney the opposition 10 a handful and their lanky fullback had already made some incisive breaks through the middle only to be thwarted by more desperate tackles. Cantabs worked the ball forward with some good forward drives and Ollie Townsend then broke clear, only to be called back by Sir for a forward pass when looking certain to score.
Our backrow were now starting to win the ball on the ground with Finn, Tom Stace and Danny all contributing to turn overs. Finlay had the first penalty attempt of the game, from their 10 metre line, following a turnover, but the ball drifted past the post. The drop out from the 22 went straight to touch and from the scrum, Cantabs spun the ball wide to the right but the final pass was wild and Noah could not gather it. Cantabs were far more effective with forward drives. Finn, Perksy, Bailey and Jonny all making good ground at every opportunity. It was already clear the game would be won by the Wymondham backs or our forwards.
Isaia won the next turnover and great play in the tight from the forwards got us well into the Wymondham 22. Finally, we won a scrum where it mattered just seven metres out. Our front row did not disappoint, Wymondham were pushed back and captain Danny finished the job close to the left hand post. Finlay added the extras and with 24 minutes gone Cantabs were up 7 - 0.
Next scoring chance went to Wymondham, anxious to get on the scoreboard perhaps. They gained a penalty on our ten metre line and to the left of the posts, and turned down a chance to hit the corner. The chance went begging. Already perhaps Wymondham were conscious of our lineout starting to dominate? Time and again Danny and Finn were denying Wymondham possession in the loose, but every time Wymondham did spin the ball out to their backs Cantabs were stretched to the limit. So the game continued with Cantabs defence holding firm when it mattered. Twice Wymondham broke away and twice poor handling let them down; the one chance our backs had was also ruined with wild passing. Then finally Delaney broke on the edge of our 22, Finn went to tackle him as he stepped to his right and the youngster was dumped unceremoniously to the ground by our openside. Sir deemed the tackle dangerous, and an apologetic Finn was carded for the last ten minutes of the half. Wymondham failed to add points and shortly afterwards with the game getting heated, Jonny Heaver and their hooker exchanged points of view and handbags. The last meaningful action of the half saw Wymondham miss their third penalty chance, and the score remained 7 - 0 at the break.
Wymondham made all the running early on in the second half. But resolute defence and some good turnovers again ruined the Norfolk men's progress. Wymondham finally made the pressure tell with their left winger ending off a spell of pressure with a score in the corner. Again, the kick went wide, but Wymondham were back in it at 7 - 5. Wymondham continued to press and then won a penalty bang in front inside our 22, and deservedly took the lead at 7 - 8. Cantabs were now under more and more pressure from the Wymondham backs and only resolute defence and some spills forward denied the visitors further scores. Now both Cantabs lineout and scrum was dominant, but any hard-won possession gained was lost by poor passing from the backs.
Wymondham broke clear again from a scrum and the kick through chase was won by the opposition but in the scramble to touch down, their man was deemed to have knocked on and Cantabs toasted their luck. Wymondham gained yet another penalty on the edge of our 22, after yet more pressure and this time Delaney made no mistake; 7 - 11.
Wymondham's fullback broke through the middle yet again, but a wild pass out to the right was not gathered and another good chance went begging. Cantabs were now under constant pressure, and very soon Wymondham were back under our posts. Their forwards hit our defence time and again, kept possession and finally the ball was spun wide. Delaney stepped high again, this time to the left and beat his man to score to the left of the posts. He converted his own try and with just fifteen minutes to go, Wymondham were in the driving seat at 7 - 18.
But Cantabs now took the game to Wymondham, Finlay's penalty got us up to the Wymondham 22 on the left. Rich Ford won the lineout for the umpteenth time and this time we mauled it forward. Great driving from the pack and the opposition could not stop the progress, Danny finishing off the move for his second try of the match. Finlay's kick from the left just failed, but we were back up to 12 - 18.
Wymondham perhaps started to fade maybe, but Cantabs had their tails up and were now winning everything in the loose and our scrum, with Tim Kirkconel replacing Perksy, still remained dominant. Finlay's kicks were now all finding their target and Wymondham were being pegged back. Then some typical openside hounding by Finn Morrison forced two handling errors from the Wymondham backs inside their 22, he won the scramble for the loose ball, Wymondham gave away a penalty for a man off his feet, and Cantabs took the obvious option to scrum from six metres out. The result was never in doubt, Danny held the ball at the back of the scrum and dribbled it forward as our pack crossed the line. Our captain made it a hat trick, and after a huge pause, Finlay was the hero as he stroked the ball through the posts, high over the netting and onto the railway. Lost ball, but who cares? Cantabs had regained the lead at 19 - 18.
There were a few anxious minutes, but there was to be no repeat of the Saffron Walden game and Cantabs protected that one point lead until Sir called last move, when the ball was gleefully booted into touch for our first win of this campaign.
Man of the match went to Danny, for his hat trick. Undoubtedly our forwards won this one, perhaps Wymondham will look back and rue a lot of missed chances, but our defence forced a lot of errors as well. Overall a hard won game which could have gone either way, with a lot of honest endeavour from both sides.
Next game is against Essex man at Wanstead. Hopefully, James Hayward is on the mend and can bolster the backs; there is certainly no easy games for Cantabs in this league.
1 Isaia Barbieri, 2 Tom Bailey, 3 Jon Perks, 4 Jonny Heaver, 5 Richard Ford, 6 Tom Stace, 7 Finn Morrison,
8 Danny Richards (capt), 9 Dean James, 10 Ollie Townsend, 11 Ben Newman, 12 Francois Eve, 13 Andrew Tilley, 14 Noah Poulson, 15 Finlay Laing, 16 Tim Kirkconel, 17 David Masters, 18 Rowan Haines