The Exiles made the short journey over the city to play Cantabs 2. These are usually closely 'fought' encounters and it was again today. The game was played on the Hills Rd College pitch, the Cantabs pitch being out of bounds by order of the groundsman; where have we heard that before! For me it was the first time in the new changing rooms of the college and very nice they are too.
Game was played in good spirit throughout and we thank Cantabs for their hospitality post game, the log fire is always an attraction in their clubhouse on a cold autumn day.
Limited to the league rules of 18 players; we had 2 front row replacements and a back rower as of Thursday night, but then lost a few players to injuries that needed rest. As a result we ended up having to re-jig our back line somewhat. We welcomed Tony Dore back and Felix Rathbone stepped in to help us out and then had Noah at 12 rather than his usual 7, Jack McLaren-Stewart called his brother Callum ( who hasn't played for 2 years) to fill in on the wing as Percy was delayed by a family emergency.
With Darren's exhortations ringing in their ears the guys took the field. So what to say about the game? Early on we found ourselves unable to clear our lines and Cantabs took advantage, using their well organised pack to score.
We then promptly compounded our back line issue, firstly by Noah running a great line off Tony, but straight into him giving him a bloody nose! Then about 10 minutes later Tony's body ( knee) gave up on him, telling him it was time to join Darren on the sideline (we hope to keep him involved on the coaching side he has a lot of experience we can learn from). So we re-jiggled again, Jack to 10 Theo from 6 to 11 and Isa Sloot to 15.
With the final scoreline as it was you can picture a tight game, Cambridge pulled a try back through Callum McLaren-Stewart scoring in the corner, Noah who took on the kicking duties wasn't able to convert. Both sides had strong runs, stopped by good tackling, if we got isolated then Cantabs jackled well to achieve the turnover. The best run that stands out was a run from our 22 by Felix Rathbone pretty much all the way to their 5m line, but we were unable to take it all the way. If memory serves, Cantabs scored again before halftime.
Second half was more of the same, a tight game looking to break out into a try fest but never making it. Noah put a penalty over and Cantabs went over from close in. Cambridge were much better organised and structured, and we pressed the Cantabs line a number of times but just were not able to break through. We saw strong runs from Sloot brothers Noah and Isa a number of times but we ran out of support at the vital time.
So there were some very good passages of play and obviously some more things for us to work on in training, but excellent spirit and commitment from all. We have a week off game wise for the RWC final then a game every weekend until late December.
Report: John Pritchard