Our 1st XV travelled to Wymondham with a much changed team from that which narrowly lost to Ipswich. Jos Crush was at flyhalf and Elliott Baines at full-back and Ed Taylor was at prop for Jon Perks, and ex Wymondham man,Tom Stace, was back at blindside. Rowan Haines started this one on the wing and the other winger making his first team debut was Lew Jones. Alex Bentley was another new name picked as a replacement back. Wymondham were looking to avenge the one point defeat they suffered at Sedley Taylor Road in October, and they were quickest off the mark, running back our drop-out to immediately put pressure on the Cantabs defence. Cantabs were caught cold and the onslaught continued until the home side crossed the line ten metres in from the right hand touch line; 5 - 0 after just two minutes play.
Cantabs regained their restart kick, and went close to scoring on the left, but had kept possession and Ollie Townsend moved the ball to the right, three pairs of hands later Lew Jones had equalled the scoring in the right hand corner; 5 - 5 with Alan Barker's kick just fading passed the post.
Already Cantabs had learnt that much of the Wymondham back line moves were being orchestrated by their young full-back, who invariably started each run with an extravagant step off his left foot. We nearly made the restart kick but were penalised for not releasing in the tackle, and Wymondham found touch to the right. From the lineout they moved the ball back to the left and at the second attempt scored yet again in the corner. This time the conversion was good, and Cantabs were chasing the game at 12 -5.
Wymondham dealt with our next attack well and kicked long into the right hand corner of the 22. Jos Crush gained the mark but his kick only gained 15 metres and Wymondham were still in the driving seat. The pressure continued and when Elliott Baines tried to intercept a pass it hit his midriff and the home crowd noise persuaded Sir to award a deliberate knock-on. Elliott was yellow carded and arrived at the dug-out feeling somewhat aggrieved. Wymondham turned down a kickable penalty, going for the corner, but Cantabs ruined their lineout and repelled that attack. However, their full-back was now in his element, Cantabs failed to clear their line and this gave the chance for him to run around our defence to set up an overlap on the right, and the third try was a formality. The conversion struck the post and stayed out, but Wymondham were well and truly in the driving seat at 17 - 5.
Cantabs now started to get into the game and put the home side under a little more pressure. When Elliott had served his ten minutes, Jos ran at the defence and although he was forced into touch, he managed to win the throw. Rich Ford set up the maul and Cantabs' pack was joined by a couple of backs pushing the home side over their try line. When the attempt at the try came, however, Sir spotted a Wymondham hand under the ball and disallowed the try. Wymondham kicked their drop-out clear and the chance had gone. One more attack was spoiled by loose handling and their was no further score as we reached half time.
Initially, in the second half things got worse, Finn Morrison was pinged for an aggressive high tackle, and he and his opposite number were locked in "an embrace" as Finn tried to get back to defend the penalty. Sir joined in the discussion and penalised us another 10m for not retiring, then when Finn protested we lost another ten metres, bringing the kick to the 22m line, right in front of goal: 20 - 5 was the outcome of that debate.
Glen then brought on all three of our bench, with Isaia, Rowan and a bandaged Tom Stace making way. Cantabs were now making all the running; just failing to capitalise on a ten metre catch and drive, but doing enough to mount another attack through a typical Finn Morrison rampage through two defenders. Jos kicked Wymondham back into their left hand corner, Rich Ford caught and this time the dangerous Wymondham 15 was yellow carded for a high tackle. Not for the first time, we lost the ensuing lineout with a crooked throw, but for Cantabs this was only a temporary halt to their increasing number of assaults on the Wymondham defence. Finally the pressure told and Drew Tilley was able to take advantage of an overlap on the left to score out wide; 20 - 10, with Alan's kick passing outside the far post.
Just two minutes later Finn made the break passed to Dean James who timed his pass perfectly to his fullback. Elliott went outside to the left hand touchline to beat the first defender, then cut back inside to beat the next, scoring five metres in from the left hand corner flag. Allan, hit the conversion perfectly and Cantabs were back in contention at 20 - 17.
When Wymondham were restored to 15, Cantabs tried every thing they could to get back into the Wymondham defence, but the home side defended well and even in the last five minutes when Isaia came back on to add pressure in the scrums they managed to keep the play in the Cantabs half. Time ran down and that was that. Wymondham held out to win 20 -17.
So, that is two close defeats in succession for Cantabs, and moves us back down to fifth in the league, now eleven points shy of leaders Ipswich. We can only look back and say what might have been in the first two weeks of 2022. I am afraid that first half performance in front of a large Wymondham crowd was not up to the usual standard and although we won the second half well, we had left ourselves too much to do.
Next week, we welcome Wanstead to Sedley Taylor Road, and will be looking for our first win of the New Year.
1 Isaia Barbieri, 2 Tom Bailey (capt), 3 Edward Taylor, 4 Jonny Heaver, 5 Simon New, 6 Tom Stace,
7 Finn Morrison, 8 Rich Ford, 9 Ollie Townsend,10 Jos Crush,11 Rowan Haines,12 Alan Barker,
13 Andrew Tilley,14 Lew Jones,15 Elliott Baines,16 Ben Tozer,17 Dean James,18 Alexander Bentley.