Sat 21 Aug 2021 16:26

Friday night at Volac Park saw the first 3rd team game for 18 months against a very competitive St Ives side.

in an entertaining and try laden match for the many spectators who came to watch, the 3rds took an early lead through an interception try from coach Stef Liebenberg, converted quickly before the touch judges could get to the posts. This indicated the tempo the mixed age Cambridge team wanted to play at. 7-0. Sadly, very shortly afterwards returnee Ben Peach had to be carried off the field with what was later confirmed to be a ruptured Achilles.

A few minutes later some well timed passes from Stef, skipper Wade Schoeman and Josh Brown released Adam Griffiths to run on the right wing, who gave Sean Cooper space and a couple of jinks later he was under the posts for the second try. Max Burton added the conversion, needing a tee which slowed the pace. 14-0

St Ives by now woke up and their big pack made steady ground. Despite great defence from Cambridge on and around their 5 metre line, eventually the pressure broke and they scored wide on the left. The conversion just swerved inside the post and over the bar to make the score 14-7 at first drinks break.

The second quarter saw a cat and mouse chase with both sides going close before St Ives hammered the Cambridge 5 metre line again and then spinning the ball wide, the Cambridge defence failed to come up fast enough and St Ives scored wide on the right. The conversion would have gone over had the right post been vertical, but since the quirk of pitch 2 has one post at a jaunty angle, the kick went wide. 14-12.

Back came Cambridge and quick thinking took scrum half George Freeman over from short range, but it looked like he lost control as he went over. Both referee and touch judge were unsighted so no try and a five metre scrum was awarded. Number 8, new boy 'Stan' Stanley picked and went and great footwork saw him evade two strong tackles and over he went. Stef made the conversion to take the score to 21-12 where it remained until half time.

Both sides made changes at half time, but St Ives came out fired up and they turned their enthusiasm into points. First good strength on the left gave a short range try but the relatively straightforward conversion was missed, leaving Cambridge with a slender lead of 21-17. St Ives continued to push, having upped their work rate in comparison with the first half and after some end to end rugby where Cambridge also went close, Josh Brown prominent in their attack, St Ives won the mini battles and scored again to take the lead 21-24.

Cambridge had lost some composure and despite a stern talking to from coach Stef, from the resulting deep kick off, the St Ives right wing stormed 50 plus metres with several missed tackles and after a couple of passes, got the ball back and ran under the posts for a second try in rapid succession. The conversion was a formality and St Ives had reinforced their lead 21-31.

The end of the third quarter gave a chance for coaches and captain to give some simple instructions: get to the breakdowns to secure them and run the ball wide, as it was clear St Ives were beginning to tire. And so it proved. In the fourth quarter, the Cambridge forwards began to win the breakdown and our creative backs and strong running from captain Wade, from which he may never recover, made a great end to end try for Josh Brown, converted by Stef. 28-31

Three scrums in a row saw the end of Lewis Harvey's excellent return after his own ruptured Achilles two and a half years ago, and veteran Dick Wallin took the field to begin his 51st season of rugby. Cambridge now started winning line outs with their option reduced to the front only, and from these the backs got the ball quickly wide to Sean Cooper whose footwork and pace allowed him to put Archie Creighton over in the corner. A great conversion from the right touch line from Stef took Cambridge into a four point lead 35-31.

The last ten minutes saw more creativity from Stef at 10, strength in the midfield from Josh and great pace and footwork from Sean and Archie. St Ives were now under constant pressure and at last the ball came wide on the left where hooker James Palmer ran through and over the last defenders to crash over from the 22 for a killer try. Archie's conversion kept the 100% record and the final score of 42-31.

Clearly lots to work on, but when Cambridge ran the structure and played at the pace they have been practising, they look a potentially formidable side. Thanks to St Ives for a very competitive and enjoyable match. Though in the bar they awarded the MotM to Stef, this correspondent's vote, after consideration of fantastic efforts from Colin Leitch in particular, would have gone to Josh Brown, who had an astounding return to fitness in both attack and defence.

Scorers

Tries: Stef, Coops, Stan, Josh, Archie, James P

Conversions: Stef 4, Max, Archie

Team: Jed McDonald, James Palmer, Lewis Harvey, Colin Leitch, Wade Schoeman (C), Brandon Ockenden, James Kennedy, Stan Stanley, George Freeman, Stef Liebenberg, Josh Brown, Ben Peach, Max Burton, Adam Griffiths, Sean Cooper.

Replacements: Dan Clifton, Jake Leitch, Nick Apps, Ted Watts, Dick Wallin, Tom Sandercock, Ed & James (Jakes' mates), Darren Messenger (did not play)

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