South Woodham Ferrers were on the way up when they last visited Sedley Taylor Road but this season the two clubs had enjoyed far different experiences, with the visitors struggling for form in the league and Cantabs playing some fifteen man attacking rugby. It was great to see that James Hayward had finally recovered from ankle ligament damage and he resumed where he left off five games ago at fly half. Ollie Townsend was not available, so Dean James reverted to scrum half. Finn Morrison and Tom Stace were also also back on the flanks. Fergus Austin was making his debut at No 8. Tom Bailey took over the captaincy again with Danny Richards still not recovered from his hamstring pull. Also great to see Jon Railton on the bench.
Woodham kicked off towards the clubhouse on a well grassed pitch, yet another great day for playing and watching rugby. Cantabs tried to open up from the outset, but Finlay's pass behind his back when straight out into touch and the visitors took full advantage of their lineout on our 10m line to spread the play out wide and despite the attempt from Tom Bailey to prevent the score, went over in the corner. Not the start we wanted and to add injury to disappointment, Tom never recovered and was retired from the game to Addenbrookes. Tim Kirkconel was drafted into the front row as prop and Ed Taylor took over at hooker. Just two minutes gone and we were 0 - 5.
Our first attack was thwarted on the try line, with Woodham drop kicking out from under their own posts. Cantabs now made all the running but we were making too many mistakes in the effort to get the scoreboard moving. Then finally, Fergus Austin made the vital break with a strong run through the middle, found Dean James in support and he was not going to be stopped, scoring to the left of the posts. Finlay rapped the upright with his conversion kick, but Cantabs were back on track at 5 - 5 after eight minutes play.
Next try followed some lovely inter-passing which gave Elliott Baines the opportunity to cut back inside and score out wide. This time Finlay made no mistake; 12 - 5. To make things worse for Woodham, they went down to fourteen men with a yellow card for persistent infringements at the breakdown. James Hayward then skated down the right wing to score in the corner only for play to be brought back as the visitor's touch judge had ruled a foot in touch; a decision disputed by several of us on the line in that area. But such is life and the way Cantabs were attacking the next score was not far away.
Sure enough, Cantabs were soon back in the left hand corner with a well taken penalty from James, the catch and drive followed; we knocked on then promptly shoved the opposition pack off the ball and this time Jonny
Heaver was the beneficiary, powering over amidst the bodies. Finlay converted and with 23 minutes gone Cantabs were 19 - 5 to the good.
Just two moves later, Alan Barker shot through the middle, from the halfway line was caught 10 metres short of the line but was able to offload to Hayward in support. No denying James this time as he swerved past the cover tackle to score to the right of the posts. Again Finlay added the extra two to bring the score to 26 - 5.
Our next try was probably the best of the match; Deano was involved three times with a mesmerising interchange of passes involving Ben Newman and Finn Morrison, with the latter finally dotting down in the corner; Finlay again converted from out wide to make the score 33 - 5. SWF were not giving up and got just reward for their work when we ran out of defenders following an extended period of pressure; their man scoring to the right of the posts to bring the score to 33 - 12 at half time.
Cantabs immediately put the visitors under pressure from the start of the second half with a long drop-out from James forcing a handling error. Cantabs spun the ball out wide, even Isaia was involved with a diving catch and pass to keep the move going, then Elliot Baines scorched through a couple of tackles to score at the posts; 40 -12.
At this point in the game our lineout started to stutter somewhat and we lost two on the run, SWF seemed to be lifted and started to batter away at Cantabs when the play got into our 22, and at time put us under real pressure. Our passing got a little wild and we spurned a couple of chances for tries in our eagerness to score more points. Finlay looked to have scored on the right but again the final pass was not accurate and was adjudged forward by Sir. Isaia took a break to bring Ben Tozer into the game. Yet another chance came and went on the left with a hurried pass going astray. Finlay then skated passed three defenders and dropped the ball. Chance after chance was coming our way, but the scoreboard was unaltered. Then Elliott showed everyone how to finish. SWF managed to lose possession on halfway, Elliott picked up the loose ball and hared down the touchline, finally diving full length to score at the right hand corner post, as the fullback came across to tackle. The score was up to 45 -12 as Jon Railton replaced Ben Newman.
SWF were not finished, a beautiful kick from their flyhalf was met on the full by the winger running flat-out, no stopping him, great try for the visitors in the corner and the score to a more respectable 45 -17. Jonny Heaver took an unfortunate knock and was replaced by Isaia, Ben Tozer moving to second row, then Dean James sustained an injury and Ben Newman was back on with Jon moving to No 9. There was time for Finlay to take advantage of a well worked move to score on the right for our eighth try, rounding the score to 50 - 17.
But the last score of the game went to the Essex men, with a great try which started from under their own posts and finally saw them score under our posts. This was their bonus point score, and proved to be their first point of the season. Final score was 50 - 24.
So, that made it eighteen tries in the last two matches and it could have been more. Man of the match was awarded to Elliott Baines, who got a brace of tries, to follow up his hat-trick against Diss last week. With his speed, Elliott is reminiscent of David Bloxsum from four seasons ago or for those with even longer memories, perhaps Roger Summerfield.
No 1st XV game next week, but on the 27th we travel to Woodford to take on their 100% unbeaten record; Cantabs will need to be at their best and it will be a good test for our improving side. Best wishes to Tom Bailey for a speedy recovery; Tom puts his body on the block every week in Cantabs' cause and he deserves to be back in the side as soon as possible.
1 Isaia Barbieri, 2 Tom Bailey (capt), 3 Edward Taylor, 4 Simon New, 5 Jonny Heaver, 6 Tom Stace,
7 Finn Morrison, 8 Fergus Austin, 9 Dean James, 10 James Hayward, 11 Ben Newman,12 Alan Barker,
13 Elliott Baines, 14 Fergus Wilson, 15 Finlay Laing, 16 Ben Tozer, 17 Tim Kirkconel, 18 Jon Railton.
Tries: James Hayward, Dean James, Elliott Baines 2, Finlay Laing, Alan Barker, Finn Morrison, Jonny Heaver.
Conversions: Finlay Laing 5
Our 2nd XV entertained local rivals Shelford 3rds and quite a game it was with Cantabs taking a first half lead of three tries to two only to finally surrender by 41 points to 35.
1 David Bond, 2 Charles Searle, 3 J-P Middleton, 4 Tom Heaver, 5 Tim Fitzmaurice, 6 Laurence Jones,
7 Ben Campbell, 8 David Masters, 9 Gary Nightingale (capt), 10 Daniel Soanes, 11 Florian Duchatel,
12 Andrew Tilley, 13 Dan Reed, 14 Brenton Dart, 15 Alex Myers, 16 Phil Brooke, 17 Paul Hunt, 18 Gus Harvey.