Mon 25 Apr 2022 20:49

Final win caps a great season
Cambridge Exiles 29-17 Sudbury II

The Exiles final game of the season came on a celebratory weekend for Cambridge Rugby with our first ever Women’s home game preceding and a local derby in National One against Bishops Stortford for the first team succeeding, with the Exiles game against Sudbury sandwiched between. Although bright and sunny a strong and cool wind blew diagonally across the pitch, into the Exiles faces for the first half. Talking to several of the ‘old lags’ of the club, we can’t remember there ever being so many games when the wind has blown strongly from the north and east rather than the prevailing south and west…

As a result, when Cambridge kicked off, it was not a huge surprise when the ball dropped short of 10 metres and Sudbury, full of fire, opted for the scrum back. Winning the scrum under some pressure Sudbury spun the ball wide right and almost immediately ran a try into the corner. The conversion was missed, but the score was immediately 0-5. Words were said by captain Stef…

After such a serious wake up call, the game settled into its pattern. Good play from both sides, a few errors from both sides as they struggled to cope with accuracy of pass and catch in the strong wind; super chop tackling from Sudbury with lazy support from Cambridge meaning ruck penalties conceded; unusually, a super strong scrum from the Exiles with props Jamari and Stan disrupting the Sudbury pack (once they’d remembered which was loose and which tight…) Archie’s support there and around the pitch; unusually a weak line out, which has been our strength all season - Tall Guy Jake was missed - giving Sudbury lots of possession; and our different back row of Will, Brandon and Alex continuing to run strongly and disrupt the Sudbury rucks.

Eventually the scrum pressure told, after Young Alex had been held up over the line and the Exiles second row of Mike and Jules helped push them off their ball, Chabs picked up at the back of the scrum and scored in the corner. Max missed the tricky cross wind conversion and the score was tied at 5-5, a very fair reflection of play.

Sudbury now came back strongly with strong defence from Joe and Rijk in the centres, Max and Young Alex on the wings keeping them out. Then out of the blue, an interception from Young Alex allowed him to streak down the middle of the pitch and score his try under the posts with Max’s straightforward conversion putting the Exiles into a lead of 12-5 against the run of play.

Sudbury continued to attack strongly and whenever the Exiles turned over the ball, they continued chop tackling and winning the penalty as the Exiles once again failed to get to the ruck in numbers. Kicking for the corner, they won the lineout and took a catch and drive, breaking blind to score their second try in the corner. Missing their second conversion meant the Exiles took a narrow lead into half time of 12-10.

The half time message was simple: stay on your feet in the tackle to negate the strength of the chop tackle until support arrives and get support there quickly. A few changes were made. Gareth had already replaced Mike in the second row, giving extra ‘go forward’ and joining Jules who has grown in confidence this season, being our most reliable catcher from the kick off. Jake came on for Brandon, Banksie for Archie, Cadge for Stan.

With the wind mostly at their backs, the Exiles took more to the air, and with Stef and Kieran swapping roles, the Exiles at last seemed to get a semblance of control to the game. Kicks swapped meant territory to the Exiles and eventually a Sudbury clearance fell into the hands of Euan who looked up beat the first two defenders with suave ease, and took off down the right wing, to round the Sudbury backs touching down under the posts, the conversion from Max making it 19-10 and a tiny bit of daylight between the teams.

Possession, attack and defence remained even, but staying on their feet stopped the rot of turnover penalties and the wind aided the Exiles in winning territory. A lineout on the Sudbury 22 was thrown longer where Chabs plucked it from the air, and Kieran then Stef spun the ball left to Young Alex who sprinted in for his second try to take the Exiles three scores into the lead 24-10.

Adam came onto the wing, and Asbo to fullback with Euan moving up to the centre. Sudbury stopped kicking and keeping the ball in the hands made ground up the pitch. Spreading the ball wide right Max made a superb covering tackle on the Exiles left, but this was adjudged high and a penalty was awarded. Max was unlucky here, but at the same time lucky as it stopped a probable try so could easily have been given a yellow and Sudbury a penalty try. But from the penalty they spread the ball quickly wide left and scored a converted try to get back to one score for the draw at 24-17.

Seth now came onto the wing, Asbo to fullback and Brandon came back on to replace Jake who had got injured. The final minutes of the game saw the Exiles twice crossing the line only to be held up and for the second of these they decided to go for the pushover. Duly delivered, Chabs picked and dropped over the line. Stef just missed the difficult conversion, the ball grazing the outside of the post, so the final score was 29-17.

Full credit to Sudbury. They had seen our patterns of play in the first game, adjusted their tactics to suit and could easily have won. Indeed earlier in the season, they would have done, but this Exiles team has transformed over the year from a team playing social rugby to a team winning social rugby. The presentation of the league winners trophy after the game, followed by a whole club photo, with the first, development and Exiles squads plus women and Mini Youth players all involved, put the final seal on the most successful Exiles season for years and with the hope that this team can move forward again next year in “London 3 Eastern Counties”.

Tries: Chabs 2, Young Alex 2, Euan
Conversions: Max 2

Jamari Dowdie, Archie Davison, Stan Meadhurst, Julian Mannion, Michael Robson, Brandon Foot, Will Ramply, Alex Chabala, Stef Liebenberg, Kieran Shave, Max Burton, Joe Johnson, Rijk Diepeveen, Alex Howard, Euan Rees
Replacements: Simon Banks, David Cadwalladr, Gareth Edwards, Jake Letch, Adam Griffiths, Asbel Rodriguez, Seth van Rensburg

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