Last-gasp victory for the Blood and Sand
Dan Lewis kicks the winning penalty with the last kick of the game
A typically entertaining derby between Cambridge and Bishop’s Stortford ended with a last-kick of the game victory for the Blood and Sand by 22-21.
In previous seasons, and indeed in pre-season this term, this fixture always seems to provide a close encounter and plenty of gripping rugby. The last few meetings in league matches, have seen Stortford come out on top more often than not.
Stortford did start the stronger and took a three-point lead, but Lewis levelled the scores with a penalty of his own a few minutes later.
A feature of Cambridge’s season this campaign has been their markedly improved defence, and they displayed their capability again, repelling Stortford for long periods camped in their own 22, but the visitors couldn’t find their way over the try-line, instead settling for the three points following a penalty conceded by Tom Nutley, who was sin-binned for his offence.
Even down to fourteen though, Cambridge played on the offensive, and with a penalty advantage signalled, Lewis kicked the free-ball through a gap where Albert Portsmouth gathered to score, before Lewis converted.
Stortford though, once again returned the pressure, and this time managed to find a way through the red defensive line and over the whitewash, after Matt Tomlinson rolled in the tackle, allowing him the space to touch down and leave the scores at 10-13 at half-time.
In the second half, both sides displayed their defensive prowess in terms of keeping the opposition short of the try-line. However, the pressure was telling, as both teams conceded penalties in trying to do so. After just over an hour’s play, the score stood at 19-16 to the hosts, courtesy of the back and forth penalties.
Stortford then scored what seemed like the game-winner, as they threw past the back of the line-out, which caught Cambridge unaware, and gave Seb Brownhill an unopposed dive over the try-line. Crucially though, the conversion was missed wide of the mark.
With a minute or so remaining, Cambridge restarted the game and shortly after, the visitors knocked the ball on, giving Cambridge a scrum on the ten. The Blood and Sand had controlled the scrum all afternoon, and they drove Stortford back. The front rows popped up, as the visitors continued to retreat. The referee seemed to take an age to make a decision and allowed the scrum to continue, but he eventually awarded the penalty.
Step forward Dan Lewis, who had been perfect with the boot all afternoon. Whilst the ball was in the air, it looked as if it would be close if it had the distance or not, but then another Cambridge player shouted; “Yes Dan!”, and the whole of Volac Park knew then that the kick was good.
The touch-judges raised their flags, the referee blew for full-time, and the Stortford players looked on aghast whilst the Cambridge squad ran to celebrate with Lewis, who impressed all afternoon with his wand of a left-foot.
Next up for the Blood and Sand is a trip to Loughborough, as they try to make it three wins on the bounce for the first time this season in the last fixture before the Christmas break. Ross Stewart and his team will be keener than ever to get the result to put right the reverse fixture at Volac Park in September, where the visitors won by 9-14.