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25

OCT

Southend 34 - Canterbury 10
Back on Top.

Southend arrived at Canterbury full of confidence after last weeks historic win and went on to triumph again. A result that took them back to the top of National League 2 South.

It did not start like that though. Canterbury won the toss and elected to play with the wind and down the gentle slope on this terrific pitch. That decision immediately bore fruit as they put Southend under pressure. They gained and kept possession well, forcing Southend ever backward until their No 8 Willem R Baars barged his way over in the corner. The difficult conversion was missed but they took an early lead at 5 0.

Canterbury continued in the same vein denying Southend any momentum. When Southend did get their hands on the ball it was either dropped or turned over. Penalties were conceded at the scrum and line outs lost, so it was against the run of play when Mike Stanley got his foot to a loose ball. He stabbed it forward, followed up, gratefully accepted the kind bounce and raced over the Canterbury line. Frost converted and Southend moved into a 5 7 lead.

Southend steadied the ship and started to play. The game became more evenly balanced and the action ebbed and flowed from one end to the other. Southend squandered a couple of more chances before flanker Dan Johnson finally got in on the act and drove over for Southend's second try. Frost missed the conversion but the score moved onto 5 12 in Southend's favour.

Canterbury responded almost immediately, following another period of possession their winger Matt Sheen sped over for a try in the corner. The conversion attempt failed but the score narrowed. 10 12.

Southend continued to make a number of unforced errors particularly at the line out which became frustrating for both the players and the travelling supporters, however just before half time Andrew Frost slotted a penalty to move the score to a flattering five point lead at 10 15.

After the break Southend went up a notch they became more dominant particularly at the breakdown. Aggression and determination began to tell. Mike Stanley who was having an impressive game at flyhalf embodied this attitude when he bullied his way through the Canterbury defence and scored his second try of the game, Frost converted and the score board moved to 10 22.

Head coach Andy Holloway decided to make some changes and bought on Luke Irvine in place of Todd Bailey at prop. The scrum steadied and Southend began to dominate. It was not long until a scrum and drive near the Canterbury line was rewarded when newcomer Irvine forced his way over for try number four. It not only moved the score on by five points but secured yet another bonus point. That's an impressive 8 in eight games.

With the lead almost unassailable more changes were made and Southend moved up to yet another level. Even when Canterbury did mount an attack, they were tracked down by Southend defenders hunting in packs. Double and triple tackles went in, gradually draining the will and stamina of their opponents.

That, coupled with actually winning some line outs against the head, led to a missed pass that was gratefully accepted by flying winger Mark Billings. There was no way that any of the Canterbury players were going to catch him and he touched down under the post. Frost converted and the moved to it's final score, Canterbury 10 Southend 34.

Mike Stanley was awarded Southend's Man of the Match. Because he was unaware that this old tradition is still followed at Canterbury he and the team had gone off to the dressing room, so the case of beer was accepted on his behalf by Southend Chairman and official taster Neil Harding.

With Jersey beating Ealing Trailfinders Southend move two points clear at the top of the league.

As always we again managed to win the penalty count. Against, Southend 10 Canterbury 6.

AG

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