Before this game Woodford had an unbeaten record in London 2 NE, but Cantabs were on a winning roll themselves and for the first time since the opening game of the season, Jos Crush and James Hayward lined up in the same Cantabs team. Tom Bailey had recovered sufficiently to captain the side from the front row, and the scrums would be interesting as Woodford had reputation for being strong in that department.
Winter had properly set in as Woodford kicked off with a gusting wind behind them on a bitingly cold day, and we feared the game might finish in darkness it was so gloomy. In the first real attack of the day, Cantabs defence was too narrow and when the Woodford backs switched play over to the left their winger had too much space and skirted round our cover easily to score in the corner; not the start we wanted; 5 - 0 with the conversion from the touchline missing.
Jos Crush hit the restart kick long, they fumbled and the first scrum of the game saw Woodford pushed back, with Cantabs unlucky not to win a penalty, and that was the pattern from thereon with Cantabs dominating virtually every scrum that followed. Woodford survived the pressure for a while with Cantabs making all the running and getting close to scoring, but every time Woodford got the chance they were kicking long with the wind to the left hand corner. Ed Foster in the lineout had to be on his mettle and our defence was being challenged every time their kicks pushed us back into our 22. Woodford were then caught offside and James Hayward found touch inside the opposition 22. Ed won the lineout and Finn Morrison went close when he burst through only to be stopped at the line.
Again, Woodford resisted the pressure and when James was caught not releasing, Woodford kicked us back into the corner again. Woodford knocked on under pressure from a furious Cantabs defence and we scrummed our way out from our 5m line. Woodford then lost their No 8 through injury, then a piece of magic happened. Woodford were back in our 22, this time on our left wing, with the tackles coming in from Cantabs, the ball came loose and fullback Elliott Baines could not fall on it but he managed to get a great boot to it and hacked it down the wing up to half way. Now we know Elliott is quick and sure enough he was first to the ball, hacked it forward again with defenders at his heel, onward he went and hacked it again, the bounce was kind as he arrived in-goal and he was just able to ground it for a great solo try. Alan Barker defeated a swirling wind to gain two extra points and after 20 minutes Cantabs were up at 5 - 7.
Cantabs were now on top and Finn Morrison was quickest to a loose ball in the Woodford 22, we won a scrum but although Fergus and Ollie were combining well when we won possession, Woodford defence was holding firm. They then won a penalty five metres into their own half, and this time turned down the chance of going for the corner, as it was central. The kick sailed through the posts to put them ahead at 8 - 7.
Cantabs then had a series of scrums deep inside the Woodford 22, every time Woodford were pushed back and every time the scrum was reset even though their loose head was popping up out of the scrum. Eventually we were penalised and Woodford kicked clear. All the pressure was coming from Cantabs however, with Woodford reliant on big kicks to put us back into our 22 whenever the chance came. Remarkably in the conditions the handling from both sides was excellent. Jos then hit a great kick towards Alex on the right wing, he just failed to gather the ball as it skidded into touch, but he did get his hand to it and Woodford had to defend their own scrum from 5m out. Cantabs won that one against the head and chose to scrum again when they drew the penalty. The result was we were held up on the line, we went back to 5m to try again; twice more the scrum was reset as their front row stood up. We had counted eight scrums on 5m from the start of the game, with Woodford going backwards on every on, but not one penalty to Cantabs. This time Ollie spun the ball out wide, and James sidestepped their flanker, and outpaced the next defender to score to the right of the posts; justice at last, and with Alan adding the extras we were ahead at 8 - 14.
Just on half time, Woodford kicked another penalty into the corner, and Cantabs defence could not stop the try, which was converted this time to give Woodford a precious one point lead. Half time score 15 - 14. Every one retired to the changing room to get out of the biting wind.
Jos kicked the restart kick high and immediately our back row put the home side under pressure on their 22. Woodford clawed their way forward, but then Elliott hoisted a long kick which pulled up just short of the line and Woodford were forced to drop out from under their posts. We then won a penalty and James found the right hand corner. Ed grabbed the lineout ball Ollie spun the ball wide and Ben Newman scored in the corner. Alan's kick from the touchline sailed through, and Cantabs were back in front at 15 - 21.
Woodford came straight back at us with a good attack down the left, and finally scored to the left of the posts. There was a long hold up as Finn Morrison suffered a leg injury in his attempt to stop the move, but finally he hobbled back behind the posts and their flyhalf brought Woodford back in front at 22 - 21. Ed Taylor came on for Isaia at this point. Cantabs continued to press and when Woodford were penalised for not releasing in the tackle, James kicked the penalty into the corner. Our lineout was adjudged crooked, and Woodford had to scrum out of their own 22. They managed to clear the danger and kicked long, but Elliott found touch with a
great 50/22 kick to put Woodford back into trouble. Ed caught, Ollie moved the ball out to the right, and there was no stopping Alan Barker who crashed through the defence to score close to the posts; 22 - 28 and Cantabs well on top.
Cantabs continued to dominate, Lawrence Jones replaced Jonny Heaver, but Cantabs needed that fifth try to be sure. James Hayward went close to scoring but we were brought back for a fumbled pass. Tom Bailey then left the game with an injured thigh, and Isaia was back on, Ed moving to hooker. Cantabs then put the game beyond the reach of Woodford. Again it started from a lineout and again a back burst through to score at the posts - this time it was Jos Crush and it was even easier for Alan to add the two points; 22 - 35.
There was five minutes left to play, but it seemed so much longer. We were caught in our 22 defending a scrum, no problem? This time Woodford scored one against the head and burst through to bring the score back to 29 - 35. Cantabs continued to defend like tigers, and when Woodford kicked into the corner and messed up the lineout, it was time. Game over and a special win to make it six on the bounce.
Cantabs were the better side and man of the match went to Fergus Austin for his great work at the back of the scrum and for his forcing runs throughout the game. That was undoubtedly our best win, playing away against an unbeaten side who had come down from London 1. Cantabs now have a squad of players who support one another so well and have now scored 23 tries in our last three games. Next game is against West Norfolk preceded by our Christmas lunch.
Tries: Elliott Baines, James Hayward, Ben Newman, Alan Barker, Jos Crush
Conversions: Alan Barker 5