Sun 19 Sep 2021 18:47

Cambridge Exiles 43 - 5 Shelford 3

On a very warm day, 17 Shelford players made the trip into town to face a strong Exiles side in this derby match to kick off the new, Eastern Counties 1 West, league season.

The first kick didn't go 10m, and at the resulting scrum, the Shelford pack showed their power by almost pushing Cambridge off the ball. Banksie, as ever, though won the ball against the head at Shelford's following scrum, which proved the pattern of the day. Several phases later, having worked into the red zone, with good structured play, Stef eventually moved the ball wide where returner Lawrence burst over from fifteen metres for the score. For the first time this season, Max failed to convert, but the Exiles were underway.

Now Shelford came back hard and pressured the Cambridge line, where sturdy defence eventually paid off with a turnover penalty awarded and Cambridge were able to clear the line, a good kick into touch well into the Shelford half and the put in to the line. However, for the first time, the Shelford line worked well and stole the ball and a couple of phases later the Shelford fly half, Will Woodgate sold Julian the biggest of dummies and shimmied through to put himself completely in the clear with sixty metres to the line. He set off like a zebra across the savannah, unaware of the lion waiting downwind - namely Stef on the opposite wing. From forty metres Stef lined him up and made the shoulder strike about ten metres short of the line - a superb covering tackle.

Sadly, this defining moment of the game had serious consequences for Wooders: an awkward fall saw his right leg crumple beneath him, and the discomfort was obvious. After some time with the medics, he was eventually eased as gently as possible onto a stretcher and carried from the field of play to await an ambulance, with a suspected dislocated hip. This was later confirmed in hospital, together with a broken socket. All at Cambridge Rugby wish Wooders well. I have played against him for more seasons than I care to remember and he has always been a fierce and skilful competitor as well as a real rugby gent. I hope he will be able to play again eventually.

At the restart the Shelford pack won the scrum on their put in, but Cambridge wheeled and Shelford opted for a second scrum. Banksie doesn’t miss two against the head often and so it proved. A quick heel, two passes down the line and Theo joining the line took the ball and stretched his very long legs, a couple of swerves, a change of pace and he was up the other end, dotting down for his first try from 90 metres in his first senior game. Max made the straightforward conversion and quite against the run of play, the Exiles were up 12-0.

Now the game went to and fro. Shelford had strength in the scrum and tackle area, but Cambridge had fitness and Banskie, so not many balls were turned over by the village men. And Cambridge’s power runners and speed out wide stretched the Shelford defence so many times, that they had to give way - first to a Jacob try from ten metres following structured play and then going wide; then Theo’s second try, again from long range, this time kicking over the full back and collecting to dot down. Max sadly missed both conversions. It clearly was not his day from the tee - though one thumping tackle sticks in the mind. Half time score of 22-0 was definitely harsh on Shelford.

The Exiles now started to make their changes, Cadge coming on for the second time - he had already had to sub for Jamari after a yellow card offence in the first half - and James Kennedy made a welcome return with an immediate impact as he went storming upfield. George drove all the way from Cardiff for forty minutes at scrum half, replacing Tom who had played extremely well in his first outing at 9 in the first period, notable for accurate passing and joining in many defensive duties.

Darren’s admonition to play more of the Exiles structure really paid off now and wave after wave of drives followed by wide plays took them to the try line where the strong Shelford defence could only last for so long and eventually, George spotted the hole and dived through to score, Stef converting.

But now, as ever it seems, the Exiles went off the boil for a minute, and with the defence relaxing Shelford showed they were perfectly capable of making a come back and scored a good try through lax tackling. I’m not sure what Stef said to the team at that point, but it had the right effect as Shelford never got near the Exiles line again. Tom came back on at his normal position of 10, with Stef going out wider and Cesar adding some pace and strength on the wing. The result was a hat trick try for Theo carving through once again, though this time from shorter range but then running round to dot under the posts, Stef converting.

Alex Howard came back on to replace Theo at full back, and continued to demonstrate his strength, speed and bravery in the tackle. The back row of skipper Alex Chabala, Julian and Ryan continued to dominate in both attack and defence and Stan had by now come to terms with the dark arts of tight head and the Cambridge scrum looked solid as could be with Colin, Jake and Eli rotating in the second row.

The Exiles final score came from a brilliant line from Jacob, unstoppable from 10 metres out with Stef again converting for a final score of 43-5, which in the end was probably a fair reflection of the game overall. Man of the match was Ryan, for an excellent display at open side flanker.

Several of our players now go off to university so we will not see them again until the Christmas vacation and we wish them all good luck. Bury St Edmunds 3 away next week could be an interesting test for this developing side.


Tries: Lawrence, Theo 3, Jacob 2, George

Conversions: Max 1, Stef 3


Jamari Dowdie, Simon Banks, Stan Meadhurst, Colin Letch, Jake Letch, Julian Mannion, Ryan Curtis, Alex Chabala (C), Tom Powell, Stef Liebenberg, Max Burton, Lawrence Hutchinson, Jacob Weightman, Alex Howard, Theo Aubrey

Replacements: David Cadwalladr, Eli Hammou, James Kennedy, George Freeman, Cesar Belloso, Darren Messenger (did not play)

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