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Christmas comes early for Cantabs

A lot has changed in rugby union since I first joined the committee in 1993. League rugby had just started back then and Cantabs membership had voted against an amalgamation with Cambridge, which rather unsettled Cantabrigian RUFC. Most of the 1st XV elected to join Cambridge as did half the committee. At that time Cantabs, Shelford and Cambridge were all playing in London 2NE and in the thirty years that followed, Cantabs moved down and occaisionally up into London 3 or 2 but are now back in Eastern Counties 1. Shelford have progressed towards one level below National league, while Cambridge have moved right up to the Championship. Both of the other Greater Cambridge clubs have spent money on recruiting and retaining players while Cantabs remains stoically amateur.

Back in the nineties Cantabs ran three senior sides, Shelford over the years achieved five mens' teams, Cambridge dallied with four for a while. Today Cambridge struggle to field a second team, incredibly.

Shelford have got five senior teams, although two of them are now women's teams. Cantabs in 2023 regularly now get out three teams, all still of the male persuasion.

The Cantabs rugby model is largely unchanged, still limited to a single pitch for home games and training, albeit now lit by modern floodlights, and a changing facility and second pitch rented from Hills Road Sixth Form College. Shelford and Cambridge with the additional pitches at their disposal have hordes of juniors and have developed their clubhouses, whilst Cantabs still reside in the same old clubhouse, where a succession of culinary angels, including my wife, produce pre and post match meals as good,if not better than many of the clubs that we play from a postage stamp kitchen. And so it was business as usual on the last league Saturday of 2023. Julia had prepared fillet of beef plus all the trimmings for 60 for our Christmas Lunch, and superb it was. The London Pride and red wine flowed, and most of the members just about remembered to get out onto the pitchside for the game against old rivals Shelford 2. Yes, its not at all like old times on the pitch, Shelford 2nds are heading our league now, and had only lost the one game - curiously and wonderfully against us in the second game of the season. Here we were for the return fixture with Cantabs having lost three games out of the last four.

Captain Tom Bailey was sat on the touchline having suffered a tib/fib fracture against Ipswich YM (his second leg break in the last two seasons) and before we knew what had happened Cantabs had managed to ship three tries and were down 17 - 0. However, with the evergreen Jon Perks in the front row our scrum started to dominate, we went close and should have scored, but did manage to get a solitary unconverted try by halftime.

At the break the Peacocks' tail feathers were up.

The second half was a completely different story, I can only recall Shelford getting in our half briefly and to no real affect. With the scrum now going just one way, and Jack Holland's line-out throwing hitting the mark Cantabs were winning the set pieces. Tom Stace continues to have one of his best seasons with Cantabs at No 8, Finlay Laing and James Hayward were hitting the corners regularly with penalties and our wingers were looking dangerous.

Cantabs slowly but surely reeled Shelford in and try followed try - not sure who were the try scorers but doubtless someone will let me know. FInal score 34 - 17 and Cantabs had doubled the league leaders. To a man all 18 of our squad played well and celebrated hard at the end of the game along with us bloated spectators. A perfect end to 2023 and something we can build on in the New Year. Even Glen joined in after the game in the dressing room, all the way from NZ.

And, I swear I saw Al Sadler gathering up large tail feathers off the pitch as I made my way back into the Clubhouse.

1.Joe Croker, 2. Jack Holland, 3. Jon Perks (capt), 4. Simon New, 5. Ed Foster, 6. Luke Tonwsend,

7. Finn Morrison, 8. Tom Stace, 9. Ollie Townsend, 10. Elliot Baines, 11. James McCaskie, 12, James Hayward,

13. Alan Barker, 14. Jack Hopkins, 15. Finlay Laing, 16 Ben Tozer, 17. Adam Tye, 18. Ben Newman.


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