The Exiles took on the Renegades from Cottenham on Saturday hoping for a more comfortable match than the last minute one point win last season. And so it proved to be, with the result never in doubt, yet the teams ended up separated by a single point once again! The pattern of the match was set early on with evenly balanced scrums, lineouts and loose play, and solid defence from both sides, but superiority for the Exiles in the backs, who had a distinct age advantage over their opposition. Despite this the first score came from quick thinking by the Exiles new open side, Lucas Bonin, who added to his turnovers at the breakdown by snaffling on a fumbled ball at the base of a ruck to chase the ball over the line and touch down. Emergency fly half Hugh Pritchard gave a hefty kick but failed with the conversion wide of the posts.
A second piece of quick thinking by the Exiles forwards had them take a quick line out, which while it appeared to be from a penalty, was correctly adjudged by referee Pepper, to have been knocked into touch by the Renegade wing and therefore available. Slick passing in the back row allowed Lucas to sail over under the posts to take the score to 10-0. Hugh's kick went wide again...
After the Exiles went to sleep for five seconds from a quick tapped penalty, the Renegades got a converted score back despite good defence on the line. The reality is that they should have been thirty metres back up the pitch, since they never really threatened the Exiles line at any stage in the match. 10-7
The third try came from good play by the Exiles backs taking the ball wide to the right after an excellent scrum and full back Tom Wells went over in the corner. In his own words, it didn't make up for the three other opportunities he had "murdered", but Tom was always a threat with his pace and strong running adding to the usual solidity in defence. Given Hugh's previous two misses, skipper Dick Wallin made the silly mistake of deciding to kick for goal himself. Unfortunately, accuracy was traded for length and the ball fell short, but the Exiles were ahead by more than a score, 15-7.
And so it stayed throughout the remainder of the first half and all the second, despite further Cambridge pressure and missed opportunities from the Cambridge backs, until in the last play of the game, newcomer Ahmed Hadj, in only his second ever game of rugby was adjudged to have killed a ruck 5 metres out and to the astonishment of all, Mr Pepper awarded a penalty try. The conversion took the score to 15-14 and the whistle went.
This was a very hard fought encounter but the Renegades still haven't beaten the Exiles at Cambridge.