Cantabs 2 38-21 Cambridge Exiles
After a big score at home, the second leg of the local derby against Cantabs was always going to be a different game, especially without inspirational coach and tactical leader Stef, away on duty in Dubai, and with three first choice No 8’s unavailable, Kiwi Stan and Tall Guy injured and Dex on family duty. This was compounded on the day when first our fourth No 8 Bod tested Covid +, Josh came down with food poisoning and his replacement Euan got injured in the warm up… Then, we heard that James’ car had broken down and he wasn’t going to make the game.As expected, Cantabs were also stronger than they had been, so this match was going to become a stern test for the progress of the Exiles this season and it was going to prove how much they had learned over three months of training.
Things didn’t look good to start with as the pack struggled in the scrums, of which there were many due to a general lack of catching, although the line out went much better. It’s difficult controlling the ball at the base of the scrum when it’s moving backwards even for an experienced 8, so no wonder Jules found it tricky. However, he more than made up for it in the rest of his game, putting in a top performance. This scrappiness fmade it difficult for the new half back combo to click.
Nevertheless, the Exiles scored first through Max, who converted his try for 0-7. This was soon followed by two Cantabs tries despite the best efforts of the Cambridge back three of Cesar, Maxim and Young Alex. One conversion meant that the Exiles were now down 12-7.
Before half time, Young Alex scored a try which Max converted and the Exiles went into half time with a slender lead of 12-14. It was clear that this was going to be a struggle.
A shuffle at half time brought Big Alex into the front row, Stan shifting to hooker, Jules moved to lock, with Archie moving to flanker and Ryan coming on at 8. These changes stabilised the scrum which went better in the second half, Ryan in particular having a strong game.
However, despite the improvement in the forwards the backs continued to lack composure and a winning game plan. Here, the wrong decisions, and poor kicking combined with too many knock ons. Given the circumstances the centres did their best, spending a lot of time defending. In this period, Cantabs scored three more tries, two converted, to take the score to 31-14.
Things improved a little when Nick came on at scrum half and things started to look up for the Exiles when Young Alex scored his second try of the match, Max again making the conversion for another 100% record,and taking the score to 21-31. However, a final Cantabs converted try saw the score end 21-38 and the Exiles suffer defeat for the second time this season.
Today’s game saw lots of positives, with Jules, Ryan and Young Alex standouts, well supported by Caleb, Max, Maxim, Cesar, Archie with Gareth, Big Alex and Nick doing their bit when they were on. Everyone gave 100%. The league is now completely open with all the top teams being more or less equal and no-one running away with it. The Exiles have been lucky to win a couple of their earlier games against opposition which is always competitive on its day. They therefore continue to have lots to work on if they are to become the team they want to be. If they want to be clearly the best at this level and to be able to move on, they need to challenge themselves to learn more disciplined gameplay - what works and what doesn’t - and for many to improve the basic skills of catching and passing.
Tries: Max, Alex Howard 2
Conversions: Max 3
Stan Meadhurst, Archie Davison, David Cadwalladr, Michael Robson, Gareth Edwards, James Kennedy, Joe Roberts, Julian Mannion, Byron Sparkes, Sean Cooper, Kieran Shave, Maxim Gleeson, Max Burton, Caleb Stanley, Cesar Belloso, Alex Howard
Replacements: Alex Howell, Brandon Ockenden, Ryan Curtis, Nick Apps