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Cambridge Rugby Shield

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10
Apr 17

CRUFC 40-43 Blaydon

Another disappointing afternoon at Volac Park for the blood and sand as they lost by 40-43 against struggling Blaydon.

Another game that slipped through the fingers of Cambridge after they dominated large parts of territory and possession, but again couldn’t see the contest out.

Blaydon are fighting for their National One lives, and although they displayed tremendous determination and desire to stay in the battle, Cambridge should have put the result beyond them.

The positive for the home side of course, is that they did manage to guarantee their own position in National One for next season after taking two bonus points from the game.  So, in that respect it’s season objectives achieved for Ross Stewarts’ team.

Cambridge started the game full of energy and imagination, recycling the ball quickly and putting the visiting defence under tremendous pressure from the off.

Dan Lewis opened the scoring with a superb solo effort, chipping the ball over his marker before gathering the loose ball on the bounce and touching down, before converting his own score.

The scrum was one area where the visitors did have the better of it, and they levelled up the scores after a strong scrum opened the space to score their opener.

Ean Griffiths muscled his way over the try line next, as Cambridge once again camped themselves inside the Blaydon half until the pressure paid off.

Cambridge were in control and again pressuring the Blaydon defence, but, not for the first time this season, they were the masters of their own demise.  A penalty for not releasing was knocked over the posts, before a telegraphed pass following the restart was intercepted and returned the distance.

Blaydon soon added another after large gaps opened in the home defence to give the visitors a 14-24 lead.

Cambridge responded just before and just after the break, as great work from Matt Hema on both occasions allowed Albert Portsmouth and then Mike Ayrton to restore the home side’s advantage.

The home side had regained full control of the contest at this stage, and Louis Rawlings got himself on the scoresheet next to extend the lead to 33-24.

The visitors responded with a score as they barged the ball over the line with all the effort of a side that hadn’t given up hope of saving their National One status.

The standout player of the day, Hema, then scored a deserved try of his own, and it seemed Cambridge would finally cling on to a home victory in a game that they had dominated, having lost many from winning positions this year.

But, battling Blaydon had other ideas, and even though they hadn’t produced anything of real quality in attack as Cambridge had, they were playing with passion and belief.  Mike Stanway made a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to tackle the scorer who had found space in the corner, and the score stood at 40-36 going into the last five minutes.

Unfortunately, the home side had their defensive frailties exposed once again.  Once more, nothing of real class or inspiration from Blaydon, just a battering ram that believed they could get the ball across the line again, and they did.  Cambridge had no answer to slow ball through the forwards, straight up the middle.

Blaydon scored and won the game by 40-43 to keep alive their hopes of survival.

It’s fair to say that it’s a relief that Cambridge have already wrapped-up their spot in this league next season, as the last two fixtures this term are against Ampthill away in the penultimate fixture, who are third in the standings, and then Plymouth Albion who sit in second visit Volac Park on the last day of the season.

Another frustrating afternoon for the blood and sand, but the promise is there for next term.  Cambridge can attack with the best in this league, but their defensive frailties are still evident.  You have to believe that if they had a little more steel about them, they would have had at least another 20 points or so this season.  An improvement and a higher league position next season should be the target.

With some work, the future is indeed bright.  The future is Blood and Sand.

Report: Dan Wright

27
Mar 17

CRUFC 27-36 Coventry

Cambridge came up just short against Coventry and former coach Rowland Winter, as they lost 27-36.

Coventry made the stronger start to the game, and had scored two tries within 12 minutes to give themselves an early 0-12 advantage.

Cambridge asserted their presence on the game in the following period of play, and had a long spell of pressure recycling the ball quickly inside Coventry’s 22.

This lead to a succession of penalties from the visitors as their defence strained to keep the hosts at bay.  Tom Poole was the man picked out for further punishment as he was sent to the sin bin for ten minutes, and Ben Ibrahim made the pressure count as he crossed the whitewash shortly afterwards.

Cambridge were gaining control of the contest, but one momentary lapse from the usually ever reliable Stef Liebenberg meant Coventry put another score on the board against the run of play. With Cambridge making progress up the field, Liebenberg looped a pass out wide, which Coventry centre Tom Howe intercepted, leaving him with a clear run under the posts from the halfway line to score his second of the game.

A penalty won from a strong visiting scrum left the scores at 5-22, before George Furbank scored in the corner for the hosts to leave the scores at 12-22 at halftime following Dan Lewis’ conversion.

Lewis scored the first points after the break from a penalty just outside the 22 and hopes were high that Cambridge were in the driving seat now, and would take the game to the visitors.

But, small yet crucial errors once again proved costly, as missed tackles and gaps in the defensive line allowed Coventry to score a quick brace to make it 15-36 and seemingly put the result beyond doubt.

The blood and sand fought back valiantly though, and deservedly scored two tries of their own, the first from Cameron Ruddock and the second from Tom Trotter.

Cambridge had dominated for long periods of the game, but had left themselves too much to do at this stage.  They picked up the bonus try point but couldn’t quite gain a losing bonus point as time ran out on them.

The hosts will be disappointed that yet again on their home patch they picked up just one point, when perhaps four or five were there for the taking.

The point gained here has moved Cambridge above Fylde in the table into twelfth, and further good news for current Cambridge head coach Ross Stewart is that a win this Saturday against second-bottom Hull Ionians would guarantee their spot in National League 1 next season.

This would-be season objective achieved, and victory would allow Stewart to be able to begin preparing his squad for the next campaign; a squad that has shown throughout this season that they are more than capable of placing much higher in the division next time around. 

Report: Dan Wright

06
Mar 17

CRUFC 22-36 Esher

A disappointing afternoon for Cambridge in the National League One, as they lost to Esher by 36-22.

Before the game began, there was a sense of optimism amongst the home support, as Esher were making the visit to Volac Park having lost all 11 of their previous away games this season, and even though results had been going against them, the blood and sand had been finding some decent form of late.

From the kick-off, neither side managed to stamp their authority on either possession or control of the contest, and throughout the half the scoreboard showed the evidence that the game could come down to the wire.

Esher opened the scoring after a dummy opened the space for a two-on-one in the corner. Matt Hema replied strongly for the hosts, as he bumped off his tackler to give him the space to also run into the corner.

The visitors took the lead once more as a direct result of their early command of the scrum. Cambridge couldn’t find a solution against a strong pack, and after an initial reset, the referee awarded Esher the penalty try following another dominant scrum.

Dan Lewis then replied for Cambridge, as he stepped inside and shrugged off his marker to give him a simple run-in under the posts. He converted his own score to level the scores at 12-12.

Cambridge then missed a crucial tackle of their own, to open up another two-on-one situation, which Esher again finished with a minimum of fuss.

Lewis responded again, this time through a timely interception to score his brace for the afternoon, and to tie the scores again at 19-19 as the game headed into the break.

A back-and-forth first half indicated that the second might play out in a similar vein. However, Esher never let the home side get into their stride, and they were playing with a great desire to help ensure their National League One status for next season.

After a penalty apiece brought the scores to 22-22, the remainder of the game was played almost entirely deep into Cambridge territory.

For long periods, the blood and sand’s defence held-up excellently, frustrating Esher for long periods as they gave it everything to try and cross the elusive whitewash again. However, when Cambridge did win the ball back, they couldn’t manage to escape their lines and relieve the pressure.

Either the clearing kick didn’t gain enough yards to feel comfortable, or handling errors halted Cambridge’s attempts to play themselves out of trouble. Esher continued to knock on the door of the home defence, and eventually it opened and they crossed to make it 22-29.

Cambridge were now looking to respond and score their fourth of the game also, to ensure a bonus try point and to give themselves a chance to win or at least draw the contest.

However, when the chance came from a scrum on the Esher five, the hosts were adjudged to have not been pushing straight, and the chance was gone.

Just to rub salt into the wound, Esher then came up with another late score after yet another two-on-one down the wing. This ensured them the win, which at the same time cruelly took the losing bonus point away from Cambridge and left the final score at 22-36.

An extremely disappointing afternoon for the blood and sand, as Esher now move above them in the table after taking the full five points, as Cambridge came away with nothing to show for their efforts.

Cambridge now sit 11 points above the relegation zone with six fixtures remaining.

Another hugely important weekend awaits, as they travel to Fylde, who are only four points above them in the table.

Elsewhere, Hull play host to Blaydon. These are the two sides directly below them in the table, so Cambridge know that the gap between themselves and those teams below is guaranteed to be closed further if they fail to gain any points this weekend.

Report: Dan Wright

31
Jan 17

CRUFC 30 - 39 Moseley

Cambridge lost their sixth game in a row, as they succumbed 30-39 against promotion chasing Birmingham Moseley.

A 7-minute period either side of halftime cost Cambridge the chance of an emphatic win along with an invaluable five points against a team who had brushed them aside 74-14 earlier in the season.

What a statement it could and perhaps should have been.

Early on, the home side were playing the better stuff in what was still a good contest, but they couldn’t quite make it count on the scoreboard, and after 37 minutes the scores stood at 8 apiece.

Cambridge were again applying the pressure before a yellow card to Moseley prop James Burgoyne for offside. This yellow card started the short phase of the game that cost Cambridge so dearly.

With Moseley down to fourteen and facing a Cambridge lineout from their own five-metre-line, it seemed as if the hosts could stamp their authority on the game and make some headway on the scoreboard.

However, the swing in the other direction was remarkable. Moseley won the ball back deep in their own territory and caught Cambridge on the break to score before halftime.

After it, even with the numerical advantage, vast gaps opened up in the home defence for Moseley to almost stroll through. 3 tries in the space of an embarrassing 4 minutes almost put an end to the contest.

Burgoyne now returned to the game with his side ahead by 8-32. He may have been wondering why he had been playing at all, not that he had played poorly prior to his caution!

To give credit to Cambridge, they regrouped well. From here, they dominated for much of the second-half, just as they had the first.

Tries from Tom Nutley and Gareth Baxter on his 50th cap came before a reply from the visitors.

Cambridge were soon on the front foot again though with a spectacular try after James Ayrton kicked on for his brother Mike, before he then kicked a perfectly weighted ball on for himself to gather and touch down.

Cambridge had secured themselves a bonus try point. The makeable conversion though was a rushed drop-kick taken by George Furbank, understandable when Cambridge wanted to make sure of the restart before time ran out. In hindsight, maybe just a few seconds to fetch the kicking tee or for composure before striking the ball may have been wise, if there was indeed time to do so; the conversion was missed.

Cambridge did score again through Dan Seal, driving over following a lineout. This kick however, was right in the corner. The score was now 30-39 and the kick would be the last action of the match. The conversion and two points, would give Cambridge a second losing bonus point for being within seven points of Moseley in defeat. Furbank struck it well, but unfortunately just left of the posts.

A hugely frustrating afternoon for the blood and sand. A performance worthy of far more than the single point they gained.

The next fixture for Cambridge awaits on Saturday as they travel to Macclesfield, who currently sit a distant bottom-place in the table.

Report: Dan Wright

12
Dec 16

CRUFC 10-20 Ampthill

A hardened performance in the rain at Volac Park turned out to be an effort in vain for the blood and sand, as they lost to Ampthill by 10-20.

Ampthill brought with them a huge forward pack, but Cambridge were not deterred away from the bruising competition; they barely missed a tackle all afternoon and competed ferociously at every breakdown. The scrum was also a very even contest right up until the final whistle, even though Cambridge clearly had a weight disadvantage out of the two packs.

The points could have gone either way in the end, and perhaps just a few slices of luck meant that Cambridge came out on the losing side. Ampthill opened the scoring after a fifteen-minute battle for supremacy that rarely strayed from the middle of the pitch besides a kick and return. Ampthill won a penalty which they kicked into touch just outside the Cambridge five. From the resulting lineout, Cambridge were adjudged to have brought the rolling maul down illegally, even though it appeared to have stopped “rolling” for some time before the referee blew and awarded a penalty try to the visitors.

The next slice of misfortune came with a good kick over the head of George Furbank. With Ampthill players closing rapidly, Furbank attempted to dive on the loose ball, but the wet conditions meant he slid over and past it, leaving a clear path for the visitors to pick up and score their second, and take a 0-12 lead into the break.

The second half started much as the first had, but the hosts did then give away a penalty to increase their deficit to fifteen. An excellent response though saw the hosts get off the mark with a try from Jake McCloud after some quick phase play.

This was followed by another nicely worked try, as Stef Liebenberg turned inside and fed a precise pass out for Lawrence Hutchinson to score in the corner. Unfortunately, Dan Lewis couldn’t covert either conversion from the corners to leave the score at 10-15.

Jack Green replaced him soon after and made an impact. Even though the rain still poured, the crowd were now well behind the home side all around the pitch, and when Green chipped a delicate kick over the defence for Hutchinson to gather, their voices became louder in anticipation of another late winner at Volac Park. Hutchinson attempted to find the spare men next to him with space to run into, but knocked on out of the tackle. Green knew a chance had gone begging and he put his hands to his head.

Ampthill managed to regain some control on the game from here, and eventually won a scrum close to the Cambridge try-line. Twice it collapsed almost immediately, with the penalty going to the visitors. The third time the scrum popped up rather than collapsing, but Ampthill managed to sneak out of the side and scored in the corner.

There was time for the restart, but Cambridge couldn’t get the ball back, at the same time failing to earn back a well-deserved losing bonus-point as they lost by 10-20. Cambridge will feel aggrieved to have come away from this fixture with nothing. On another day, they would have taken at least four points after such a good, solid performance.

Ross Stewart and his team have another home fixture this weekend against Rosslyn Park to make amends, and will be looking to make inroads into the six-point gap between them in the table. In the reverse earlier this season Cambridge came away 19-22 winners, so maybe Rosslyn Park will be looking for some retribution of their own.

Report: Dan Wright

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