It was another perfect afternoon for rugby and unbeaten Chelmsford were the visitors at Sedley Taylor Road in this London 2 NE clash. Cantabs included Elliot Baines on the right wing, making his 1st XV debut and we also welcomed back Matt Burson on the opposite wing for a rare appearance. Matt made a few of the pre-season games before disappearing off to Bath University, and he had demonstrated just how much talent he has on those occasions. We were still without James Hayward, and Jos Crush continued at flyhalf. Ben Tozer continued at prop with Isaia was still visiting family in Portugal and Rich Ford missed this one, as he was working in Ireland. Chelmsford had a reputation for speedy backs, but it was likely to be a close game now that Cantabs had started to show some form.
Burson was soon in the action on the left wing and Chelmsford were already finding him a handful. The first scrum showed Cantabs strength with the visitors easily pushed back. Cantabs wasted a couple of opportunities to hit the corner with penalties, but early on all the attacking was coming from our lads. Again Burson sliced through the Chelmsford defence, moving diagonally across to the right wing where Danny Richards linked well only to spill the ball in the tackle. Chelmsford then had a chance to open the scoring with a penalty from our ten metre line, but could not make it count. Cantabs dropped out from the 22 and were soon deep in the opposition 22, with some good driving and passing. We got to within five metres and with the strength of the pack looked odds on to score. But the popped pass out of a tackle was telegraphed and easily intercepted. The Chelmsford winger out paced all of the Cantabs cover defence and scored close to the posts. The conversion was a formality, and suddenly with just 12 minutes gone, Cantabs were 0-7 behind, having made all the running.
Chelmsford immediately won a penalty and went ten points ahead, before we could even mount an attack. Chelmsford made a mess of the restart kick and Finn Morrison our one man battering ram then showed how it should be done, with nothing seemingly on Finn showed his strength, breaking through a couple of tackles and from 30 metres out he outpaced the defence and crossed the line. Finlay added the extra two points; 7 - 10 after sixteen minutes. Chelmsford then when close with their centre racing through only to be stopped deep inside our 22. Our clearing kicks were not finding touch, and we were allowing Chelmsford backs to counter attack too much. There was nothing wrong with our tackling, but at times Chelmsford's runners were threatening to break through. Jos Crush then hit the corner, with the defender only able to shepherd the ball into touch; but Cantabs managed to mess up the resulting 5 metre lineout and the visitors broke away again.
Another Chelmsford attack was spoiled by a knock-on inside our 22, and our scrummaging destroyed the Chelmsford pack. Perksy, who had only come off night shift at 6.00am, took a break with Simon New replacing him, Jonnie Heaver moving to the front row. Finlay then got us into the right hand corner, a catch a drive saw Cantabs move towards the line. Then their second row offended for the umpteenth time and was yellow carded. Two penalty scums later and we were over the try line, Danny taking the honours, as usual and Finlay added the extras and lost another ball to Network Rail; 14 - 10 with Cantabs taking the lead for the first time after 30 minutes. Chelmsford spurned another penalty opportunity with a very kickable chance on our 22. Within a minute, it was a case of too many penalties conceded by Cantabs, and this time their flyhalf made no mistake to bring the score to 14 -13 at half time.
Soon after the restart, some great interplay from Francois and Alan Barker and Cantabs had moved into the 22, won a scrum and the forwards rucked the ball closer. Finn again was too powerful for the Chelmsford defence and scored his second try under the posts, Finlay obliged to make the score 21 - 13, and Cantabs were sitting pretty. Tom Bailey then saved a certain try tackling the right winger into touch at the corner. Jonnie Heaver was yellow carded for persistent offsides from Cantabs, forcing Perks to re-join the fray, and Ed Fairey took over at full-back from Finlay Laing. But Chelmsford were now able to get close, converting the penalty; 21 - 16. We looked to have scored when the restart kick was knocked on and after some neat passing, Cantabs found themselves in the corner, Chelmsford kicked the ball in an attempt to clear but it rebounded into goal and we touched down, only to have the try disallowed for offside. Cantabs were not to be denied however, we gained a scrum inside the 22, after some decisive running from Burson. Again the scrum did the job and again Danny took advantage wide out on the left; 26 - 16 and a bonus point gained. Dean James, nursing a cracked knee cap, joined the game at No 8 as captain Danny Richards limped off with a pulled hamstring.
Chelmsford were now winning all the lineouts, and were looking dangerous, and things got worse when Tom Stace went for an interception to early and was yellow-carded for offside. The offence was in the 22, and their flyhalf kicked them closer at 26 - 19. Cantabs came back at Shelford with Jos Crush hitting the 22 with a penalty, but we could not make the lineout pay. now all the pressure was coming from the visitors and the Cantabs crowd were becoming nervous. Chelmsford forced their way into the 22, won a penalty, and from the resultant 5m lineout a catch and drive saw them make the try-line in the corner. Luckily for us the conversion stayed out hitting the near post and just failing to cross the bar; 26 - 24.
There was still five minutes to go, but Cantabs held out for the final whistle, and probably deserved the win. Finn Morrison was adjudged man of the match; two tries, some storming runs and trademark tackling made him a clear winner. That's three wins on the bounce for Cantabs that moves us to mid table. I am off to Diss next week where we always have a tough game; one to look forward to with us looking down at them for once in the current standings.
Cantabs 2nd XV gave Renegades a run for their money for once, finally getting shaded out by five tries to three on the College pitch. They also find themselves mid-table in Eastern Counties 1. Lots of new players have already joined Cantabs this season, as well as Toby White, who is a great addition to the coaching team. With the Halloween party producing record bar receipts, the old Club is in a very good place. We even had a visit from the RFU President, Jeff Blackett, who is visiting all fifteen English Rugby regions on a charity walk for the Injured Rugby Players Foundation. Jeff was impressed with the work that had gone on in the clubhouse pre-season and a good number of us then joined Jeff and his wife in the leg of his walk that took us to Shelford Rugby Club. The Club was pleased to make a donation to the Foundation on your behalf.
1st XV squad:
1 Ben Tozer, 2 Tom Bailey, 3 Jon Perks, 4 Ed Foster, 5 Jonny Heaver, 6 Tom Stace, 7 Finn Morrison, 8 Danny Richards (capt), 9 Ollie Townsend, 10 Jos Crush, 11 Elliott Baines, 12 Alan Barker, 13 Francois Eve, 14 Matt Burson, 15 Finlay Laing, 16 Simon New, 17 Dean James, 18 Ed Fairey.
2nd XV squad:
1 David Bond, 2 J-P Middleton, 3 Ryan Moclair (capt), 4 Tim Kirkconel, 5 Chris Walliker, 6 Dan Searle,
7 David Masters, 8 Fergus Austin, 9 Jon Railton, 10 Daniel Soanes, 11 Alex Myers, 12 Finlay Wilson,
13 Dan Reed, 14 Florian Duchatel, 15 Brenton Dart, 16 Jack Elliott,17 Rich Lester, 18 Scott Jackson.