Result: Royston 22 - 31 Cambridge 3rds
First Saturday game of the pre-season for Cambridge 3rds - the Mighty Exiles - saw a trip to Royston to complete the only fixture of the 2020/21 season, which was cancelled due to the December Covid lockdown. The Bank Holiday weekend took its toll on selection for both sides, with the 3rds filling the side with some youngsters from the Colts and Vipers plus older hands and even three ex-Royston players to spice things up!
With skipper Wade and coach Stef both unavailable for the weekend, captaincy and fly half position went to Sean Cooper. This might have been a good idea were it not for the stinking hangover he was carrying and he was not at his best. Even without the hangover, the same could be said for many of the team - although several individuals had great moments, the team failed to gel and in general, tackling was poor. Notable exceptions with excellent individual performances, Ed with big aggression in the tackle, Jamari with strong running, Tom with an accuracy in defence and attack and good percentages in the line out, Alex strong running and tackling, Max actually going for the outside on the wing and good kicking. All round performance for the second week running from Colin Letch won him the man of the match from coach Darren.
In the first half, Royston started strongly, but good defence from the thirds kept them out and excellent constructive play made a good try for Max which he converted. Royston came straight back and scored a converted try after sustained pressure. When Cambridge played their structured play they made ground and once again constructed a good try for Fred which Max converted from wide out on the right into the wind. The half finished with constant pressure from Royston drawing lots of penalties and eventually the pressure told and Royston scored the try, but failed with a relatively straightforward conversion. Half time Royston 12, Cambridge 14.
Cambridge changes in the second half, trying out Cesar in the back row made the Cambridge team weaker overall, but two breakaway tries for Matt, the first made with slick passing and good support, the second a sharp interception from Coops and again good support from Matt both converted by Max took them to a 12-28 lead. That was almost the last attempt on the Royston try line and Royston’s traditional strength in the scrum - their front five must have had an extra 100kg, at least on Cambridge - together with good playmaking from their 10, gradually forced two more tries, neither converted and with 15 minutes left, the score was 22-28.
A clash of heads sent Jamari to hospital for 8 stitches and Dick came on for the last 15 minutes, strengthening the scrums - of which there were then many. Cambridge kept play in the Royston half with Cesar back on the wing running strongly and eventually forced a penalty 25m in front of the posts with a minute left. Max took the full minute to slot the penalty to prevent Royston from breaking out to take the win. Final score 22-31.
Tries: Max, Fred, Matt 2
Conversions: Max 4
Team: Jamari Dowdes, Tom Henderson, David Cadwallader, Colin Letch, Elie Hammou, Jake Letch, Ted Watts, Alex Chabala, Nick Apps, Sean Cooper (C), Josh Brown, Ed Shannon, Max Burton, Adam Griffiths, Fred Nash.
Replacements: Dick Wallin, Liam Clarke, Cesar Belloso, Matt Parkes, Darren Messenger (did not play)