Yet again, Cantabs travelled in hope for this final league game, but with both half backs out, Dean James injured in training and Rich Ford on family duty, there were lots of changes to the squad from that which had won the previous week against Southwold. Ollie Townsend's season had finished following the head injury he had picked up last week, so Rowan Haines was drafted in at scrum half and James Hayward moved back to flyhalf.
The game could not have started better for Cantabs, who were playing into a strong cold wind. The Stowmarket drop kick was helped into touch, we won the scrum against the head and James Hayward grubber-kicked the ball way into the opposition half. Their full-back failed to gather the ball and James McCaskie was on hand to score in the left hand corner; 0 - 5 after less than two minutes.
Stowmarket were quick to reply, a penalty to the left hand corner, lineout won and the ball moved swiftly over to the right. A missed tackle and their winger was in out wide. The fly-half judged the kick well and we were behind at 7 - 5. James hayward's restart kick was perfect, Stowmarket tried to run the ball back, Laurence won the penalty in the tackle. Jonny Heaver took a quick tap passed to Tom Bailey who surged forward from fifteen metres out, bursting through three tackles and made the score close to the posts. Alan Barker converted and Cantabs were back in front after just ten minutes at 7 - 12.
Our scrum was dominant at this stage of the game and Tom Stace was winning good ball in the lineout, Cantabs were definitely on top. However we were penalised for not releasing in the tackle, their 10 kicked into the left hand corner beautifully, using the wind. Stow secured the lineout we stopped the maul but when the ball was moved through the backs, their right winger again had an overlap and again scored in the corner. This time the conversion missed, but we were all-square at 12 -12.
Cantabs then got on top, the scrum was causing havoc for Stowmarket, Francois Eve made a good break, but the support did not arrrive on time. Cantabs continued to push Stow back again into their 22, with our scrum again dominant. Then disaster for Tom Stace, a pulled hamstring ended his game, and David Masters came on for his debut. Cantabs continued to push, Francois again made the break and his drive brought Rowan into the line, he shot through the defence and scored out wide on the left. Alan's conversion was on the money, and Cantabs were back in the lead at 19 - 12 as the break approached.
Cantabs unfortunately could not hold onto the lead, and another great kick out to the right saw their winger outpace our defence, and run round to score at the posts. The easy conversion brought the half to an end and again the teams were level at 19 - 19. It was clearly Cantabs the better side in the first half, but some lovely kicking with the wind from the Stow flyhalf had created three matching tries. Cantabs still had it all to do but with the wind at our backs in the second half, surely we could spring a surprise win?
Well that was the theory, but somehow we contrived to lose every lineout. Four times James Hayward hit the left hand corner, with penalties, and four times we either threw crookedly or lost the ball to their jumper who consistently dived over to our side of the lineout to pluck the ball from us. As for Stowmarket, everything they tried came off two more tries from kicks to the corner followed by the catch and drive and a maul which we could not compete with. To cut a long story short, Stowmarket went on to score three tries in total in the second half plus a penalty and Cantabs were unable to move their score on from half time. Final score 43 - 19.
This was a game which left Cantabs finishing the league in fifth place, with 12 wins and 10 defeats; points for 608 ,points against 538. For our first season back in London 2, a commendable result you would say; but a season that at Christmas promised so much more. However, the club has moved on during the season in many ways, all positive, and we look forward to competing again at this level next season knowing that our squad is strengthening and, hopefully, with a few less injuries next season, we will be in contention for promotion again.
1 Isaia Barbieri, 2 Tom Bailey (capt), 3 Jon Perks, 4 Jonny Heaver, 5 Ed Foster, 6 Laurence Jones,
7 Luke Townsend, 8 Tom Stace, 9 Rowan Haines,10 James Hayward,11 James McCaskie,12 Alan Barker,
13 Francois Eve,14 Andrew Tilley,15 Alex Myers,16 Ben Tozer,17 David Masters,18 Finlay Laing.
Tries: James McCaskie, Tom Bailey, Rowan Haines
Conversions: Alan Barker 2