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