Loughborough 28 – Caldy 33

PLAYING the Students on their 4G pitch is a challenge.

The perfectly-manicured playing surface gives the hugely athletic and fit Students an advantage which they generally convert to a win.

That the win for the home side didn't materialise on Saturday was down to the astute tactics of Caldy's coaching team and a truly exceptional performance from some of Caldy's heavy brigade.

It didn't start well for Caldy.

After only 30 seconds flyer Nick Royle was harshly adjudged to have deliberately knocked on an attempted interception, leaving Caldy to play the opening 10 minutes with only 14 men.

Caldy's typically aggressive defence working hard to shut out the Students during the yellow card period provided Ben Jones with the opportunity to slot a couple of long - range penalties putting the Wirral side six points ahead.

The play was lateral with both sides probing for openings but when it came to the arm wrestle Caldy's impressive forward power was getting the visitors on top.

Caldy's dominance at scrum time and from their driving play was putting Caldy in the ascendancy with the back-row strength of Adam Aigbokhae and captain JJ Dickinson leading the way.

There is no denying that the Students' rapid strike runners are dangerous from any part of the pitch and a kick and chase should have given the home side the first touchdown but for a knock on in the act of scoring.

A further penalty from either side preserved Caldy's six-point lead and it looked likely they would take their 3-9 lead into the interval until with the last play of the half a surge from the Students breached the visitors' defence.

Half-time: 10 – 9 to the Students.

The home side must have been buoyed by the score and the probability they had weathered the force of Caldy's powerful cavalry but then Caldy's head coach Matt Cairns changed the game.

Five minutes into the half on came some of Caldy’s biggest and most destructive ball carriers.

The introduction of Derek Salisbury, Harrison Crowe, Ted Stagg and Martin Gerrard changed the momentum.

The effect was immediate as Harrison Crowe smashed his way up field to start an incredible sequence of play by Caldy's heavy horse.

Prop Jack Parker picked up the ball inside his own half and set off on a burst, five metres would be good, few in the ground expected it to be 50!

Loughborough's defenders fanned out to cut off Parker’s passing options but they didn’t know about Parker’s truly exceptional pace.

The big prop brushed off a couple of tackles and as he closed in on the Loughborough 22 his expression changed.

He was going all the way.

Panic from the back three defenders as the realisation dawned that they were being outsprinted by a prop.

Jack Parker went over the line under the sticks with a couple of stunned defenders still hanging on vainly; 13-16 in favour of Caldy.

The home side responded with a tapped penalty taken behind the referee putting them back into the lead 20-16 before two more big men from Caldy made their mark.

First, a 30-metre driven maul from Caldy gave hooker Ted Stagg a score to put Caldy back in front by three points and then came another huge moment in the game.

Having bulldozered the Students’ scrum to pieces.

Tighthead prop Derek Salisbury decided to get on the score sheet himself.

From 10 metres out, the giant prop sprinted forward and send the full back into orbit before dotting down under the sticks.

It marked the end of Salisbury’s 10-minute cameo appearance but what a big 10 minutes by a very big man.

There was some further excitement as the home side gained another try aided by a fortuitous bounce before the evergreen Gareth Roberts steadied the visitors’ nerves with a well struck penalty.

Caldy were not quite as fluent as the previous week but they adapted to very different conditions playing a smart tactical game.

There is more to come from this Caldy side but they will take great heart from their ability to close out a tough game against highly motivated and superbly fit opposition.