As AC/DC would have it, “Back in black, hit the sack, been so long, I’m glad to be back...
And looking like Wasps, Cambridge buzzed like wasps, invading Fylde’s fortress with a sting and a half in the tail... Fylde had lost twice on their own turf this term – by six points to Old Albanians and two points to Loughborough - and there was little ahead of this one to suggest that they’d fall a third time.Cambridge hadn’t tasted victory away from home since December 2011
But the form book went out of the window as the Blood and Sand flew forward like England against the All Blacks and fulfilled all the promise shown in a difficult season. A fourth minute surge saw Steve Hipwell crash over for the opener, converted by Harry Key, and, like every tackle and every turnover, it was celebrated with gusto to a man.That Fylde replied in the first half within a couple of minutes of every Cambridge score proved a minor inconvenience as Gareth McComb’s side showed collective calm and an ability to problem solve on the hoof. The hosts driving maul, irresistible in the first period, foundered on a black rock after the break, and Cambridge pulled away for a well-earned, and hard-earned, win.
Hipwell’s score was nullified by Paul Arnold, converted by Richard Kenyon, but inspired from the sidelines by Rowland Winter, and urged on by McComb and Danny Hunter, Cambridge hit back through Pat Tapley. Kenyon misfielded on his line, Tapley hacked on and beat the defence to the ball to touch down. Key’s conversion was wide, but not by much. Two minutes later, with the kick-off defence in disarray, Gareth Rawlings pulled another back, but Kenyon hooked the attempted extras.
Unfazed, Cambridge hit back, and on the half hour Johnny Hale set the seal on his comeback with another classy finish. The South African centre’s come into his own since his return from a fractured skull and was on hand to take Rob Conquest’s offload and burst through the defence to touch down with bodies in his wake. Key, this time, was on target.
Fylde fought back, but Robert Stewart’s score was unconverted again, Kenyon’s kick pulling wide of the upright. Winter said afterwards that by the time he’d got to the dressing room, the problems had been addressed and a confident second period ensued. Replacement Ken Dowding’s battering-ram run was halted, but the ball was spun wide to Mike Gillick, who out-muscled the cover to crash over in the corner. With Key dazed, Gillick goaled his own try.
Kenyon’s penalty kept Fylde ticking over, but Tapley capped the afternoon with what turned out to be the critical touchdown. Returning from 40 metres like an NFL running back, the home defence disintegrated and the winger dotted down - replacement Elliot Bale added two more points for an unassailable lead.
Fylde hadn’t finished, and, with Darrel Dyer in the bin and receiving stitches to boot, Johnny Roddam barrelled over for Chris Johnson to convert in the last play of the game.
As victories go, this was up there with the best of them.
And there is, most definitely, more to come.
Full Time 27-33 Half Time 17-19
Referee – Karl Kirkpatrick
RUGBY PAPER STAR MAN – Pat Tapley
Tries: Arnold 7, Rawlings 25, Stewart 35, Roddam 80
Conversions: Kenyon 8, Johnson 80
Penalties Kenyon 62
Tries: Hipwell 4, Tapley 23, 64, Hale 30, Gillick 53
Conversions: Key 5,31, Gillick 54, Bale 65
Steve Jackson, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and The Rugby Paper