This week we saw the return of the prodigal sons and the return of the Cantabs front row. James Hayward was back and for only the second time this season partnered Jos Crush. Also back after a similar hamstring injury was livewire Francois Eve. But it was the return of Perks and Barbieri who would give Diss something to think about up front. Cantabs were still without our three concussion victims from the Chelmsford game, Fergus Austin, Alan Barker and Finn Morrison.
Cantabs attacked the railway end in perfect rugby conditions and the drop-out saw us in the opposition half briefly. But for the next ten minutes it was all Diss, with their influential scrum half dictating the game. Diss were denied a try when their winger put a foot in touch before grounding and Cantabs were having to defend non-stop onslaughts. Despite our superiority in the scrum, we just could not break clear of our 22, with handling errors and penalties giving the ball back to Diss. Even Sir was finding fault with our scrummaging. Diss finally made the pressure tell after 15 minutes when they converted a penalty for holding on in the tackle; 0 - 3.
We won a penalty from the restart and Jos kicked into the corner, but we knocked on in the line. Cantabs stayed in the corner, Jos kicked another penalty and we had a second go. This time Ollie Townsend spun the ball out and James Hayward burst through to get within two metres of the line. From the recycled ruck, we shifted the ball out wide to the left and James McCaskie finished off the move with a try in the corner; 5 - 3 after 20 minutes.
The next try soon followed and for the umpteenth time this season it all came from lineout in the right hand corner, and a crash ball met by the human tank, Tom Bailey. Jos had another go from the tee, but missed badly, and at that point handed all attempts at goal to James. But, Cantabs were now buzzing at 10 - 3, with some great 15 man rugby, close passing from the forwards and determined running from our backs. Both Francois Eve on the left and Elliott Baines on the right were cutting holes in the Diss defence, and James Hayward looked to be getting back to his best with incisive breaks; linking well with Jos Crush and Drew Tilley.
Perks and their 2nd row had a collision which could be heard from the touchline 50 metres away, talk about the immovable object meeting ....... Ollie went close when he snatched a quick line-out from Diss. Hayward and Crush were constantly kicking us back into the corners and now it was all Cantabs, but further scores eluded Cantabs as half time came.
Diss started the second half just as they had started the first, some lovely play from their number 9 and some incisive running gave Cantabs some work to do. But as with the first half the opposition seemed to run out of steam and steadily Cantabs regained control of the game. Luke Townsend was now getting into his stride and again our close passing was admirable. Cantabs scored three more tries from Tom Stace, Isaia Barbieri and Rich Ford, following good work from the pack in the set pieces, James Hayward converting one of them, and Cantabs were clear at 27 - 3.
James Taylor was now on for Perks, Dean James for Tom Stace. Diss made the next score however, with a dummy pass and break through the middle of our defence from their number 5, and they were back to 27 - 10 after a dropped conversion because their support team failed to get the tee on in time.
Hayward made the break yet again, kicked ahead but knocked on in his attempt to score. Diss were awarded the scrum on five, Cantabs shoved them off the ball and Rich Ford dribbling the ball at the back of the scrum made the score. Hayward converted to make it 34 - 10. Diss were not done however, and almost immediately broke down the right with their winger avoiding a last ditch attempt to tackle from his opposite number to score in the corner; 34 - 15.
Cantabs still had time for another try, even though Rich Ford had limped off. Cantabs battled through the middle with a couple of good drives from Perks, spun the ball wide and McCaskie went close, but put a foot in touch. Cantabs stole the lineout and shifted the ball back to the centre, where Ed Taylor crashed over to score at the posts. James converted and it was game over at 41 -15.
We are away at struggling South Woodham Ferrers next week and then at home to West Norfolk in the rearranged game from Christmas, so Cantabs will be looking to move into March with a winning run and maybe, just maybe promotion yo London 1 is still on the cards.
Cantabs 2nds made it a double with a comprehensive 64 - 7 win over Haverhill; club captain Danny Richards back with a hat trick of tries after three months out with a torn hamstring. We have only got him until the 12th of March however, as he emigrates to Oz.
1 Isaia Barbieri, 2 Tom Bailey (capt), 3 Jon Perks, 4 Jonny Heaver, 5 Simon New, 6 Tom Stace, 7 Luke Townsend,
8 Rich Ford, 9 Ollie Townsend,10 Jos Crush,11 James McCaskie,12 James Hayward,13 Francois Eve,
14 Andrew Tilley,15 Elliott Baines,16 Edward Taylor,17 Dean James,18 Lew Jones.