Sun 05 Sep 2021 16:01

Saffron Walden 17 - 28 Cambridge 3rds

Another varied team made the long journey to Henham - made longer when we discovered one road on our route had been closed for 16 months. Such a long time without rugby! First starts for the 3s this season for Banksie, Jos, Bod, skipper Jake, Ryan, Dex, Dan  G, Jacob, Callum, Sam and Dec. I’m sure they won’t be the last - well done guys!

Despite the long journey, Cambridge started the fresher in body - quickly making several half breaks and strong tackles notably from Bod - and in mind; when the ball rolled onto the Walden try line at the base of a ruck Stef pounced to score the first try while the Walden scrum half watched. The schoolboy error was punished with another Max conversion, repeating his 100% record of last week.

The lively Cambridge pack and centres continued to dominate with decisive breaks from Stan, Bod, Jos, Dex, “Tall Guy” Jake, Jed, Josh and Jacob, plus great tackles from Max, Jed and Ryan. Indeed the tackling was generally from a different planet than those at Royston. But then, Hertfordshire and North Essex could actually be on different planets!

One of these breaks from Stan offloading expertly to Tall Guy to run in the second try from 30m, proved the worth of the second and third of our Southern Hemisphere imports. Max’s conversion  made the score 0-14, but Cambridge then took the foot off the gas and Walden began to get into the game. First, a strong tackle on No 8 Stan after another characteristically strong run tore his calf muscle, ending his game to be replaced by Dec. Their pressure forced the first of several penalties and quick thinking by fly half Paul Marshall when all bar Cambridge fly half Stef went to sleep, got Saffron Walden back into the game with a short range drive over the line. Marshall missed the conversion.

The next period was pretty well balanced, both sides looking to structure their play, mastered by the experienced fly halves. The difference came in the 41st minute when a storming break from Dex made good ground and when the ball came to Ryan, he twisted and turned his way over the line for the third Cambridge try, converted as ever by Max, taking the half time score to 5-21, not really a fair reflection of the close contest on the pitch.

Cambridge made wholesale changes for the second half, swapping the whole front row and flankers, and bringing clear-headed Coops to his best position at full back, and Dan on the wing, with Callum moving up to centre. As ever the wholesale changes meant the team took a while to gel again, and a fired up Walden quickly took advantage of dreadfully lax midfield tackling to make 75 metres and despite an excellent last line tackle from Coops, the offload gave them their second try. A second failed conversion kept Cambridge still well ahead at 10-21.

Stef’s experience now really paid off for Cambridge as he directed the team on when to run, when to carry and when to pass and the game developed into a finely balanced contest. A catch and drive line out inside the Walden 22 resulted in the ball being held up over the line and the long goal line drop out was taken by Coops for one of several impressive long side stepping runs. A further line out just outside the 22 this time, brought a move perfected on the training pitch with two carries off the scrum half by Lewis and Cadge followed by perfectly timed passes for the backs giving Coops the opportunity to run in from 20 metres, sidestepping both wing and full back to score under the posts, converted by Max.

Coops was then poleaxed by a high tackle from Walden’s own NZ back row, but clearly without malice and Jon Evans, who had refereed sympathetically throughout, suggested he not take a further part in the game. By the letter of the law, it should have been a red card, but in the spirit of the game, this was clearly the right decision. Well done Jon (even if you did play for Shelford! :) )

The final quarter started with sustained pressure from Walden eventually leading after several goal line rucks to a short range try from the Walden 3. Kicking duties having been handed on, the conversion was made and the score line moved to 17-28.

Cambridge attacked and in the 81st minute, it looked like the pattern of the first half of an injury time try might be repeated as a clever and perfectly judged cross field kick from Stef was expertly caught in the air by Jacob, but in the act of landing and crossing the line he just put his hand into touch.

Both teams contributed to a really good game of rugby, with the final score not a bad reflection of Cambridge’s slight superiority. And we came from the third and toughest pre-season game with three wins from three. Well done lads. Lots of candidates for Man of the Match but in the end the coaches plumped for Louis Bodrozic. Well done Bod!

The good relationship between the teams carried on in the bar - witness the photos below!

Scorers

Tries: Stef, Tall Guy, Ryan, Coops

Conversions: Max 4

Team

Jed McDonald, Simon Banks, Jos Herbert, Jake Prier (C), Louis Bodrozic, Ryan Curtis, Dave Dexter, Stan Stanley, Dan Grapes, Stef Liebenberg, Cesar Belloso, Josh Brown, Jacob Weightman, Max Burton, Callum Hall.

Replacements: Sam Heenan, David Cadwallader, Lewis Harvey, Declan Murphy, Elie Hammou, Ted Watts, Nick Apps, Dan Clifton, Sean Cooper.

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