This is easily the most consistently anticipated match of the season, the regional derby against our old nemesis from the other side of town, the pressure was on Cambridge, unbeaten all season but knowing, the curious statistic that neither squad appears able to beat the other away.
With both sides missing several players through injury, the boys, who all know each other well, were pretty evenly matched as the games commenced on a cold and miserable morning at Cambridge. Ollie made his mark from the off with a powerful drive that ended with the first of many penalties to Cambridge and a line out plus another, Shelford broke away as far as Buff Tuff and another line out that Callum won and mauled only to loose the ball which was cleared and charged down for another penalty to us, the tempo was fierce. They came again, Rory took the tackle and the ball for Louis to counter and another penalty, this time WillP broke, a little surprised only to end with another penalty. They broke again to Dan who had committed 2 of theirs & ended his match with multiple knocks, but we had not closed the gap created quick enough and were punished with Shelford’s 1st try after a very even opening spell from both sides. As normal, we settled into a rhythm, another sequence of penalties to us got us to their 5 mtr for a scrum, Shea thieved the ball to a flying Hamish who equalised and Ryan converted, to the relief of the crowd. A penalty to Shelford got them to our 5 mtr, a line out, a penalty to us, a scrum and we couldn’t shift them from our 5mtr until Ollie belted out a clearance that got us out to our 22 for another line out that Bryn stole and with Rory, mauled it to their 22 where they finally fell over for a line out. In the closing minutes Ollie motored out of the scrum drawing everyone and his mate, off loaded to Rory already at full tilt to go over and ahead just before the whistle, on balance, deservedly, but not by much finishing 12:5.
Things could not be tighter, our boys produced a decent maul, Coops, despite the cold, off loaded to Hamish and a line out got it to our 5 mtr, a scrum and a stunning tackle by Hamish ended the move with a penalty to Shelford. The match stagnated into a battle between the 22’s culminating in a break by Shelford, they switched and went for the line but were disallowed after a monstrous stop from Louis. Scrum, scrum and thrice scrum the battle regained its urgency, Ryan cleared, they countered, Buff Tuff got man and ball, scrum on our 22 which they won and surged as far as a fearless Bryn, but the pressure was relentless and eventually earned then their 2nd try after a lovely switch. Sensing a change in the wind Shelford upped the tempo but could not get through the wall that was Finlay, Callum and Bryn. The line out on our 22 was won by Jonno to Noah to a chilly Coops, switched to Callum to Louis who just popped to a low flying WillB and our 3rd try. This only went to intensify the contest, attacks were stopped, countered, WillP scrapped like a loon, turn over’s, scrums, lines out, notably Buff Tuff was clinically getting his man, a welcome return by Jack Edwards proved we had missed his gentle touch in the ruck…pitching the battle for ball and territory between the 22’s, it was so even. With time running out Ryan and Noah stopped the surges, a 50:50 tackle resulted in the inevitable Harry Hill moment which after a little breather, calmed everyone down, Shelford resumed their quest for our line, but Jack just wasn’t having it, mauling back to their 22, Callum ripped it, Louis ran and WillP battered his way to their 5 mtr only to be saved by the whistle and a solid victory to the blood and sand.
It is a credit to all the squad who turned up but did not manage to get on, including Paddy and Marcus, who made up for it with their vocal encouragement, as Brucy says, Ggggood game.
Hamish Ritchie, Rory Sheppard & William Blackwell
Ryan Headington 1 from 3 attempts, could have been worse I suppose..