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Cambridge Rugby Shield


Oct 16

CRUFC 26-20 Macclesfield

Cambridge put in a solid second-half display, to overcome a halftime deficit against Macclesfield and take the win by 26-20.

It was a much needed improvement from the first half, where Cambridge had been sloppy in their use of the ball, knocking-on, losing the majority of lineouts and giving away penalties which saw the visitors take a 5-10 lead into the break.

With Macclesfield sitting second bottom in the league, and two places below Cambridge before the start of the game, a second half turnaround was vital for morale, even at this early stage in the season.

Ross Stewart must have had a few words to say at halftime, maybe just trying to clear any negativity that may have arisen from the previous weeks’ heavy 72-14 defeat at Mosely.

Whatever was said, Cambridge returned to the pitch revitalised. The hosts picked up the tempo and cut out the mistakes, and gaps started to appear in the Macclesfield defence as a result.

Within 25 minutes, Cambridge had overturned the deficit, and had opened up a comfortable lead of their own, after tries from James Ayrton, Lawrence Hutchinson adding to his first half score, and man of the match Wade Schoeman touching down to complete Cambridge’s try-scoring for the afternoon.

Schoeman demonstrated his quick thinking, catching the visitors off-guard, taking an immediate tap penalty which presented him with a free run to the try line as the Macclesfield defence retreated.

Cambridge had shrugged off a poor first half display to grab the contest by the scruff of the neck, and found themselves cruising to a bonus point victory.

It will come as a disappointment then, that Cambridge allowed the visitors to get on the bus home with a losing bonus point to take with them, after Macclesfield battled back with two late tries, as Cambridge once again seemed to relax defensively.

This left the score at 26-20 at the final whistle, and all the Cambridge fans cheering around Volac Park once again, will be hoping the single point for Macclesfield won’t become a vital one towards the end of the season.

This win moves Cambridge up to ninth in the table on 17 points, below former head coach Rowland Winter’s Coventry on scored points difference only. Even though Macclesfield did take a point away with them, they remain 15th on ten points.

Two big challenges await Cambridge in their upcoming fixtures. An away trip to third-placed Blackheath awaits on Saturday, before table-toppers Hartpury College visit Volac Park the following week. Blackheath have been defeated only once this season, and that was away to Hartpury on the opening day of the season (they have won every game since).

Hartpury themselves are the only side in the division that still has a 100%-win record, and currently sit on 35 points, having won every game with a bonus point.

So a huge challenge for the blood and sand in these next two fixtures, and they will have to play no-mistake rugby if they are to add anything to their points tally for the season.

Report: Dan Wright

Oct 16

CRUFC 35-34 Loughborough Students

An incredible finish to the game saw Cambridge pick up their first home win of the season against Loughborough with the very last kick.

Loughborough had been the dominant force for the vast majority of the contest, and their defence had stood firm for the most part. They were positively aggressive in all aspects of their game; winning the ball back, being quick off the line, excelling under the high ball and they controlled the lineout for the entirety.

The visitors had made their mark on the game and on the scoreboard. They took advantage of Cambridge’s sloppy defence from the lineout, with the hosts compounding their problems courtesy of missed tackles. This allowed Gair Currie to wrap up his hat-trick for the visitors with virtually identical scores under the posts, and also appeared to put the result out of sight for the blood and sand.

Possibly Loughborough eased off mentally as they thought the game was indeed won. Perhaps the huge effort put in by them courtesy of their high pressure game took its toll on them physically. Either way, Cambridge were ready to punish them.

With barely ten minutes’ left on the clock, and the score at 14-34 to the visitors, Jake McCloud spiked over the line for his second of the afternoon.

All Cambridge could realistically hope for from here, was to somehow find another score against a tiring defence, and to collect a bonus try point that had looked extremely unlikely for the entire contest.

Just moments later from the restart, Chris Leathem jinked inside past his man from the left side of the pitch and found himself with the space to run in under the posts. Cambridge had kept battling to the end and it looked like they had earned themselves bonus points that didn’t seem likely only five minutes earlier.

The restart was taken and Cambridge immediately set about attacking the exhausted Loughborough defence once again. The referee had signalled that this would be the last play of the game, and Cambridge were desperate to create just one more opportunity, in front of the cheering Volac Park crowd, who had been kept quiet for much of the game.

Some excellent patience through the phases saw Cambridge progress inside the opposition 22. An opportunity opened up on the left. The ball came to Mike Ayrton, and he put the burners on and headed for the corner.

He was tackled on the line as he touched the ball down. There was a question whether Ayrton was in control of the ball or not, but after a quick discussion between the referee and the touch-judge, the try was awarded.

Man of the match Jack Green had the unenviable task of attempting to slot over the extra points from the corner in front of the main stand. As soon as he struck the ball, a cheer went up to signal that the ball was on track to sail between the posts. It had the distance too, and Cambridge had miraculously overturned a twenty-point deficit inside the last ten minutes.

Huge cheers went up around the ground as the Loughborough players fell to it with their heads in their hands. The Cambridge players ran on to celebrate with Green; celebrations on a par with those seen when clinching the league title last season.

Cambridge showed incredible resilience, and once again showed why they may be the most dangerous team in the league towards the end of a game as they claimed all five valuable points.

Up next is an away trip to second placed Moseley, where the task will be to put in an eighty-minute performance rather than just turning up the heat in the later stages.

Report: Dan Wright

Sep 16

CRUFC 34 - 36 Old Albanian

Cambridge ended their first home game of the season with a narrow defeat against Old Albanians.

The 34-36 final score flattered the hosts somewhat, as from early on in the contest they never looked to be in contention for the victory.

Almost every other passage of play for Cambridge seemed to end with either a knock-on or a turnover against a strong visiting forward pack, and they struggled to gain any fluency in their play.

OA’s took advantage of this early on, and missed tackles from Cambridge’s defence compounded their woes and allowed the visitors to wrap up a bonus point with four tries before halftime.

Cambridge did manage to show glimpses of their free-running form of last season with responding tries from James Ayrton, Ricky Reeves and Cameron Ruddock, and this left the score at 22-31 and gave them a glimmer of hope at the break.

The real turning point in the game came courtesy of a fifteen-minute period of intense pressure from Cambridge on the visiting defence at the start of the second half.

The hosts were camped inside the opposition five metre line, with no escape for a resolute OA’s defence. A number of penalties and chances came and went unconverted.

Arguments could have been made for a penalty try being awarded as OA’s first had former Cambridge man James Shanahan sin-binned for ten minutes, and he was then joined by teammate Billy Johnson.

Eventually the pressure looked like it would tell, but with a three-on-two out wide to the left, Cambridge knocked the ball on and OA’s managed to clear the ball away from the following scrum and relieve the pressure.

Any remaining hope dissipated minutes later when, still with only 14 men, OA’s crossed the whitewash again to make it a 14-point lead at 22-36.

Cambridge did battle back admirably late on, and well-worked scores through Matt Hema and Mike Ayrton put the hosts within two points of their old foes with only moments left in the game.

Cambridge had one more chance to try and set up a drop-goal to snatch a win for the second successive week, but rather typically on this afternoon, Cambridge knocked the ball on to signal the end of the game. Cambridge didn’t play well enough to deserve the win on the day, but battling qualities did earn the blood and sand two important bonus points.

Picking up bonus points in a losing cause may well prove a pivotal trait in what promises to be a tough challenge in National League One this season.

Next up for Cambridge is the long trip up to Darlington, who currently sit two points above them in the league table, after a good victory away at Ampthill by 20-39 on Saturday.

Report: Dan Wright