Cantabs have, of late, seemed to get off to a sluggish start to a new season, and this year was no different, having lost to local rivals, Saffron Walden, last week. Availability is the problem; training sessions started at the beginning of June and numbers have been good. There were eight players in the starting XV this week who did not figure last week, including completely new front row and back row, and five positional changes from the seven who did start the game against Walden. This, the second fixture in Eastern Counties 1, was against Bury St Edmunds 2nds; the RFU having allowed 2nd and 3rd XVs into the London & SE divisions for the first time this season. Bury had won their first game very convincingly at home to Southwold.
Alan Barker was skippering the side. Prop, Isaia Barbieri had returned to his home in Italy after six great seasons with Cantabs, and we wish him and his young family well; Isaia you served us well and will be sorely missed.
The pitch had recovered remarkably from the previous week and from the touchline appeared a lot greener than my lawn. Bury kicked off towards the Clubhouse, and it was they who had the first chance of a score when their lively backs were three on one and looking certain to score; but the final pass went forward and Cantabs survived. The ensuing scrum saw Cantabs push their opponents fully fifteen metres back to win a penalty. Finlay Laing's kick took us into the left hand corner, Rich Ford set up the maul to good effect, but when progress stalled and the ball was spun wide by Aaron, our handling let us down. Already both hookers were struggling to throw a straight line out and unfortunately this was a continuing feature in the game until the fourth quarter when our lineout finally became consistent.
Both teams were making handling errors and that rather played into our pack's hands, or at least our scrum, where we were consistently dominant. Finlay got us deep into the opposition 22 with a penalty, and finally, the lineout did its job, and Jonny Heaver at the back of the maul was not going to be stopped; 5 - 0 to Cantabs after 20 minutes. Yet another catch and drive set up another chance that Bury thwarted, but Cantabs were getting on top.
Jonny Heaver then went from hero to villain with a wayward missed-man pass from him, which was gobbled up by their speedy right winger who ran unchallenged from out 10 metre line to score under the posts; 5 - 7 against the run of play with 28 minutes on the clock.
Rich Ford took a quick tap and got within ten metres of the try line, to win a scrum. Bury had swapped their props over, and won the scrum against the head. From that point up to half time it was the visitors dominating the scrum. We later discovered that this remarkable turn-around had been achieved using some sort of illegal tactic, which eventually Sir noticed and put a stop to. However, this sudden change in the scrummaging provided Bury with a platform to finish the first half on top. It has to be said that Cantabs were doing their utmost to make it easy for the opposition.
Bury started the second half with a good attack, but Cantabs countered with a great run from Sean Cooper down the right, just failing to get his overhead pass to his inside support, as he was tackled twenty metres short by the Bury fullback. Cantabs again went on the attack but spilled the ball. It was gathered by their outside centre, and he sidestepped three Cantabs forwards, shot through a gap and made it unopposed to the posts; Bury were in further in front at 5 - 14.
Glen brought his subs on and Cantabs continued to press but time and again handling errors ruined our progress. Dan Searle made a series of great tackles to stop Bury in their tracks time and again. Rich Ford took yet another quick tap and won a penalty when he was halted by the Bury prop who had not retired. There was then great debate with Sir about Bury going uncontested in the scrums, which would mean playing with thirteen.. Cantabs took the scrum, span the ball over to the left, where Dan went close, but when the ball came back, Jos Crush made no mistake to score try number three. Finlay could not add the extra points, but we were very much back in the game at 10 - 14.
Ben Tozer, supported by Alan Barker made good ground and Cantabs were no getting on top. The lineout was working well, Rich Ford gobbling up everything, and Bury were well and truly on the back foot. Bury were back to a full complement with ten minutes to go, but Cantabs were now dominating all the set plays. A quick tap penalty down the left, saw Dan Searle make great ground, Ford took over when he went to ground, and finally Finlay Laing came into the line to speed over to the left of the posts; Cantabs back in the lead at 15 - 14.
Bury were not done though and immediately won a penalty for offside just twenty metres out; 15 - 17. Cantabs had it all to do again in the last five minutes. Finlay thought he had won the race down the left wing to touch down in goal. Sir was unsighted and could not award the try. A scrum on five followed, presumably for a knock- on by Bury. We span the ball wide, and again Bury knocked on under their posts. We all thought, that we would take the three points. But no, Alan elected to go for the scrum, Bury held us, the ball was went out to the back to the left, Aaron regained possession and scored his try. Again, Finlay was unsuccessful, but that did not matter; we ran the clock down to win the game 20 - 17, with a try bonus point.
I gave man of the match to Dan Searle, who retired from rugby two years ago, for his non-stop tackling. Not bad for a man who trains on a bicycle nowadays. Next week we are away at Thurston, who are winless after two games. We are back at Sedley Taylor Road on 24th September for a local derby and pre-match lunch against Shelford Nomads; book your lunch with Elliot and then watch the lads try for revenge against the Cambs Cup winners.
Tries: Jonny Heaver, Aaron Robinson, Jos Crush, Finlay Laing
1 Ben Tozer, 2 Thomas Barnes, 3 Tim Kirkconel, 4 Jonny Heaver, 5 Ed Foster, 6 Adam Hardy, 7 Dan Searle,
8 Richard Ford, 9 Aaron Robinson,10 Jos Crush,11 Andrew Tilley,12 Alan Barker (Capt),13 Sean Cooper,
14 Elliott Baines,15 Finlay Laing,16 Ryan Moclair,17 Rowan Haines,18 Alex Burson.