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Cambridge Rugby Shield

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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

28
Nov 16

CRUFC 57-31 Hull Ionians

A high scoring encounter at Volac Park saw Cambridge beat Hull Ionians by 57-31.

The blood and sand pressed the visiting defence early on, and reaped the rewards as they put six tries past their opponents in a first-half attacking blitz.

George Furbank opened the scoring after a fine move, before Tom Trotter added his name to the scoresheet after a long series of phases on the visiting try-line.

Cambridge were then awarded a penalty try after Hull dragged down a rolling maul that was certain to go over.

Matt Hema scored his brace for the day either side of yet another excellent try, as a series of deft offloads cut the Hull defence wide open, and left Cameron Ruddock with the space to score.

Hull did reply to the onslaught with a penalty and two converted tries, both of which came from lineout and mauls following a conceded penalty kicked into touch inside the Cambridge 22. The only area Cambridge struggled to compete throughout the game was in their maul defence, and they probably would have been slightly disappointed to come in at halftime only leading by 38-17, after dominating possession and play for the most part.

Hull themselves came out from the break far better organised defensively, and the game was in a state of gridlock for a time. The visitors though made the breakthrough and scored once again courtesy of a lineout and maul.

Cambridge then lost one of their own lineouts just inside their own half, and were caught on the backfoot which let Hull over the whitewash again to bring the score back to within one converted try at 38-31.

Having dominated large parts of the game, Cambridge had managed to put themselves in a precarious position. However, they had left plenty in the tank for the closing stages.

With three excellent tries in the last twelve minutes, Cambridge put the gloss on a fine attacking display, even if there were a few creeks in the defensive door. The first was scored by Stef Liebenberg, as he touched down over the line after some gruelling work from the forwards.

Albert Portsmouth scored his long awaited first try of the season, but required a dive into the corner to do so. Lawrence Hutchinson wrapped up the win after a three-man breakaway from Jack Green’s well placed grubber kick.

The score line of 57-31 at the end of the game eventually conveyed some of the dominance that the hosts had enjoyed throughout large parts of the contest.

All in all, a thoroughly entertaining 13-try bonanza at Volac Park. There are certainly some areas to improve upon during training this week before the trip to bottom-placed Blaydon on Saturday, where anything less than five points will be seen as a missed opportunity to keep on creeping up the table.

Report: Dan Wright

 

14
Nov 16

CRUFC 36 - 0 Fylde

Cambridge put in one of their most accomplished performances of the season to beat Fylde by 36-0.

Before the game, Fylde were placed above their hosts in the league, but on this Saturday afternoon, there was very little evidence of why.

On the wettest day at Volac Park so far this season, the crowd may have expected to see a few more handling errors in the slippery conditions, but the errors came from one team only.

Inside the first ten minutes, Cambridge had managed to put the opening two tries on the scoreboard, without producing anything spectacular in the process.

Cambridge pressured Fylde right from the off, both in attack and defence, and the knock-ons and penalties came solely from the visitors.

The Blood and Sand put in what should be described as an extremely efficient performance, and by halftime the score stood at 22-0. The home try-line hadn’t been threatened all half, and there looked to be a gulf in class between the two sides.

Very few errors came from Cambridge hands, and gaps opened for them to exploit. Lawrence Hutchinson, Ean Griffiths, and Louis Rawling all crossed the whitewash in the first half to give them their comfortable lead at the break.

It seemed inevitable that the fourth try would come soon after the restart, along with the win and the bonus point.

Credit where it’s due though, Fylde came out and gave their all after the restart, and they controlled the first 15 minutes of the second half deep in Cambridge territory. The home defence stood strong though, and never looked like it would be breached, and even after Dan Seal received a yellow card, the red line still stood strong. A penalty conceded by Fylde for not releasing relieved the pressure, and at the same time completely expelled any momentum and confidence they were creating.

It was the first time under coach Ross Stewart that Cambridge have remained completely focused for the full 80 minutes, and demonstrated they can put in a complete performance with excellent organisation and very few individual errors, which at times have been costly for Cambridge this season.

Even in victory though, there certainly wasn’t as much excitement inside Volac Park as has been the case lately in close fought contests, because the match never evolved into one, and the result was never in doubt.

A little less excitement and tension around Volac Park courtesy of a comfortable victory, is certainly something that won’t trouble Stewart too much.

But, the Blood and Sand saved the best moment until last, as the returning top-try-scorer from last season Albert Portsmouth broke through the Fylde defence with a textbook step inside. He offloaded to Matt Hema, who continued at pace up the wing, bouncing off his tackler before looping a pass over to James Ayrton, who completed a superb move under the posts.

Ever-present number 10, Jack Green, knocked over the conversion to wrap up the five-point victory by 36-0.

A very satisfying afternoon for the Blood and Sand, who have proven they can put on a complete 80-minute performance at both ends of the pitch. They have a lot to live up to now in a bid to find some consistency, and a trip to face former coach Rowland Winter’s Coventry side awaits on Saturday, who were on a four-match winning streak, before this week’s 22-8 loss to Ampthill.

Report: Dan Wright

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