Mon 18 Oct 2021 20:43

Cambridge Exiles 74 - 0 Cantabs 2nd XV

Cantabs arrived at Volac Park looking for their first away win of the season having won two at home but lost their away game to Shelford last week. But against the in form Exiles, this never looked on the cards, though they put up a spirited performance in defeat, looking stronger in the breakdown than Cambridge and competing strongly in scrum and line out.

The Exiles started with their structured game plan in operation, and this proved deadly. They soon won a ruck on the Cantabs 10 metre line and slick, perfectly timed passing from Stef, Caleb, Joe and Adam gave Coops the opportunity to gas the wing, but an outstanding cover tackle from the Cantabs blindside wing caught him just short of the line and the ball spun forwards. However, as usual, Banksie won the resulting five metre scrum against the head and Kiwi Stan picked up at eight and scampered over for the first of his three tries with a shake and a shimmy. Unusually, Stef missed the slightly tricky conversion, but the Exiles were off and running, 5-0.

Details of the next two tries - the first from Caleb and the next from Kiwi Stan again both converted superbly by Stef - show the strength of the skills that New Zealand teaches their players as both father and son were able to execute perfect swerves to totally confound the Cantabs full back. 19-0

Kiwi Stan’s third try from another Banksie take against the head, showed he could step as well as swerve and made the game look easy. At this stage, with the continued structured play, the Exiles were able to score whenever they won the ball. That the score was ‘only’ 26-0 was down to the fact that Cantabs didn’t allow Cambridge the ball very often - they had pushed the line hard, but good defence saved the day.

A third take against the head in their own half and Kiwi Stan was off again. This time, although he could have scored himself, he made certain he didn’t injure himself again by running at 4/5 and instead spun out a long pass to Tall Guy Jake cruising in acres of space. Stef’s conversion made it 33-0. So far all five tries scored by our Kiwi players!

As if the southern hemisphere hadn’t made enough contribution, Stef then ripped possession from the Cantabs No 8 and with a well timed pass put Theo away to score a try for the Exiles on his debut. Inexplicably, Stef missed the straightforward conversion. 38-0

The final try of the half, and Caleb’s second, came from more excellent structured play, with very strong running from Banksie, Jamari, Mike, Jules and Harry freeing space for Caleb to power over the last two men. Stef again inexplicably missed the conversion from under the posts, looking as the ball spun off his foot. Lukas and I agreed that Lukas would have definitely converted that one!

Half time was there with the score at 43-0, and time for some changes. After a tough first half in the scrum, Cadge made way for Alex Howell, Stan M took over hooking duties and James replaced Kiwi Stan in the back row. In the backs, Alex Howard replaced Adam on the wing and Max came on for Joe - a really solid return to the Exiles for Joe after a few years away from the side.

Emphasising the need to keep playing with structure and control and not to get too loose and free with the ball, Darren and Stef gave a clear set of instructions for the second half. And so it proved, with that continued structured play, with strong running from Harry, James and Mike in particular, resulting in excellent tries for both Coops and Max, one of which Stef converted. 55-0

At this point Stef let the field with Coops moving to second five eighth, Theo going to fullback and Maxim coming onto the wing. As Coops admitted after the game, at this point the game plan went wrong for the Exiles. Coops knows the right thing to do, but infuriatingly for everyone, himself included, his love of broken field, unstructured play is exciting, but less effective at this level than the structured game. As a result, in the remaining 30 minutes of the game, the Exiles only scored three more tries. To be fair, Jamari’s typical loose head run from half way, with two dribble kicks should have resulted in a fourth but the ball bounced wrongly at the last minute over the line and went dead. As a prop myself, that would have been my favourite try, reminiscent of Gethin Jenkins scoring against Ireland in the decider when Wales won the Grand Slam in 2005.

Mike scored first with a good pick and drive over the line, Max missing the conversion, 60-0. Then after Max narrowly missed out on a try wide left, good passing and support play took the ball wide to the right for Max to gas the winger and run under the posts to score, converting his own try for 67-0.

The final try was a classic Coops one handed carry, mazily running through the Cantabs defence to dot down under the posts again where Max made the final conversion for 74-0. Currently the Exiles are played 3, won 3 179 for and 26 against with 3 bonus points.

Their next match, away on Saturday 23rd against Cottenham Renegades, who are top of the table and beat us at home in pre-season, will be a cracker I’m sure. Come and watch some great rugby!


Tries: Stan 3, Caleb 2, Jake 2, Theo, Coops 2, Max 2, Mike

Conversions: Stef 5, Max 2


Jamari Dowdie, Simon Banks, David Cadwalladr, Mike Robson, Harry Jones, Julian Mannion, Jake Prier, Stan Stanley, Nick Apps, Stef Liebenberg, Adam Griffiths, Caleb Stanley, Joe Roberts, Theo Bowen-Sanders, Sean Cooper

Replacements: Stan Meadhurst, Alex Howell, James Kennedy, Max Burton, Alex Howard, Maxim Gleeson

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