Hitchin 2 (17) 17
Tries: 3 Con: 1
Cantabrigian 2(14) 28
Tries: Wilson, Bloxsom, Tilley, Morrison Cons: Lovett 4
A Man of the Match debut for David Bloxsom ensured Cantabs overcame an error strewn performance to top Hitchin in their third friendly of the season.
Debutant Bloxsom scored one try and was a steadying presence at fullback in a game marred by spilt possession and heavily affected by a strong and icy wind.
Playing each other for the third time this year and the second time in four games, Cantabs and Hitchin were well acquainted. Current Cantabrigian coach Mick Jones having made the transition north from Hitchin a couple of seasons ago, this is a fixture neither team want to lose.
It was the home team who made the brighter start, scoring tries out wide after a charged down clearance attempt by Cantabs scrum half Josh Schmidt, and through the middle after some poor tackling. Neither try was converted as the Hitchin kicker struggled to deal with the blustery conditions.
It was beginning to look like a long afternoon for the visitors as after a solid start in the scrums, the Hitchin tight head really started to dominate Cantabs skipper Mike Denman, only recently back into action after rupturing a kidney in preseason.
Cantabs kept at it and were finally able to get on the scoreboard, with the assistance of the first of a number of controversial decisions on the day. After good ground made by runs from Bloxsom and winger Finlay Wilson had moved play into the Hitchin 22, a well won attacking lineout for Cantabs saw the ball shipped to the backs. Stand-in hooker Keith Nyakani dropped the pass and Hitchin’s backline hesitated, waiting for the referee to call scrum, only for him to adjudge the ball to have travelled backwards. Cantabs fly half Chris Lovett – fresh from England Deaf duty last weekend – seized on the loose ball and his quick hands put Wilson over for a score on the left wing, which Lovett himself duly converted.
The referee, possibly still thinking about the Hitchin calls for knock on, saw a Hitchin lineout straighter than many onlookers did, and allowed play to continue. From their own 22 Hitchin were able to clear. Wilson covering the kick for Cantabs spilt the ball, which was then fly-hacked through and Hitchin were able to score under the posts. The conversion found it’s mark this time, restoring the ten point advantage.
Wilson was quickly presented the opportunity to redeem himself. Another clearance kick from Hitchin was aimed in his direction. This time he took it cleanly and beat two men, running it back into opposition territory. The Cantabs forward were there in support before releasing Bloxsom, who showed impressive pace beating 3 men to score from 35 meters out. This brought the half to a close with the game in the balance 17-14 to Hitchin.
The game resumed, and Cantabs soon made use of the wind to kick deep. Hitchin cleared, but Jonny Regan ran the ball back into the home side’s 22, Cantabs won a penalty at the break down and kicked for the corner. The lineout was lost, with coach Jones incensed on the sideline at the decision to throw long. His anger abated when Cantabs scragged the Hitchin Number 8 from the resulting scrum, and won the put in. The scrum held firm and inside centre Drew Tilley sidestepped his man to score under the posts. Lovett again converting the try to give Cantabs a lead they would not relinquish.
With the error count rising, and Hitchin unable to clear their lines against the wind, there was just time for a final Cantabs score. Another strong run from Tilley allowed him to release centre partner Finn Morrison, a player tipped for a run with the First XV in the near future, to score from 5 meters out. Lovett maintained his 100% success rate to give Cantabs the victory 28-17.
The game was never in danger of becoming a classic, and both sides will look to improve on the quality of their handling as they push for promotion in their respective leagues.