Cambridge's Development squad ended the season on a huge high as they beat Ely's 1st XV on their own patch in a bruising Senior County Cup Final. It finished 22-10 to the Blood & Sand youngsters, who had to scrap all the way for their victory.
The average age of the Development squad on the day was 19.75 years of age. Ely are Level 9 and CRUFC Development are Level 7. And eventually, depsite a lesson in dogged determination from the Tigers, Scott Murphy's youngsters soaked up the pressure and the hits and won through with an extraordinarilly mature performance.
'Smurf' was proud of the way his side has come on this term: "The ability of the boys who played was impressive. I counted four 17 year olds on the pitch and it was literally men against boys at times. They're not going to get many tougher games than this even if they make it to National League rugby. That could be the toughest game any of them ever play. Ben Penfold had a very mature game on the day and pulled the strings from 12, despite the fact he's a 10. He's got a bright future in the game."
Winger Mike Brennan opened the scoring five minutes in after storming work from the oustanding Conor Gracey. Penfold missed the conversion from out wide but made amends with a four flawless penalties from around the park, three before the extended half-time interval for a 14-nil lead.
Cambridge prop Tom Jones, after a fine first half performance, lay prone for 40-odd minutes waiting for an ambulance after a nasty leg injury, and the contest literally became a game of two halves with Ely marauding back after the break.
Tigers landed a penalty of their own, and scored a converted try as they took the game to the Blood & Sand with no quarter asked or given for 14-10.
Another Penfold pen left the hosts needing two scores to win, then hooker James Palmer crossed the Ely line to end any doubt as to the result.
The National League experience of Calum Miller, Palmer, Jones, Gracey and Penfold stood them in good stead as they brought composure to their less experienced team-mates.
"The future for the Club is bright. We have some very good players pushing through. Everyone plays the same way, we'll push them and develop them as players. We've come a long way since Bedford in September. It's been a really enjoyable season and hopefully we can have many more like it."
Liam St John
Ben Penfold (c)
Report: Steve Jackson