Cambridge Exiles 38 - 40 Cottenham Renegades

If lessons are to be learned from the Exiles close defeat by league rivals Renegades, they could do no better than watch again Emma Raducanu’s fantastic win at the US Open tennis last night. Tennis and rugby may not seem to have much in common at first sight, but Raducanu’s win was based as much on her ability to repeat her “process” as on her extraordinary talent. When the Exiles followed their “process”, they demolished Renegades. Sadly, as the match continued they lost that focus and therefore failed to close out the match they should have won comfortably. This is the fourth match in four that this pattern has repeated; in the previous three luck went with them. This time, the luck of the bounce went against them.

A fourth captain in as many matches saw Louis Bodrozic lead out a depleted team. Already struggling with all regular back rows either injured or absent, so forward replacements were vet Dick and two backs pressed into service, Josh’s hammy went in the warm up, requiring a reshuffle of the backs as well, with Coops moving up to 13 and Matt coming in at full back for what turned into a Man of the Match display.

The revised team started strongly, but a long kick out saw the Renegades very strong fullback run in a try from his own half easily converted. 0-7 down, he was never again left with enough space to do the same again. The Exiles response was for Stef to make a quick break and a perfectly timed pass to Coops in support saw him  go over for the first try. Stef then directed the side to go through their process, with multiple driving phases sucking in the Renegade defence leaving space for the super quick Cambridge back three to run in two excellent third phase tries from Adam and debutante Alex, both ably created by new recruit Asbel and Coops in the centres. At last Stef converted the third try, his first two misses proving crucial in the scoring but not to the result. A fourth should have followed but Louis knocked on with the try line open.

Although Renegades came back, the Exiles were clearly ascendant and a desperate clearing kick saw Matt pick up the ball on half way and excellent mazy runs from him and Coops saw Coops finish the try in the corner, Stef converting brilliantly from the touch line. The end of the half saw Renegades using their size and strength to blast up the middle and despite valiant Exile defence go over for a second converted try to make the half time score 24-14, a fair reflection of the difference between the teams.

When Cambridge came out for the second half, they were a different team. Whether it was playing into the wind, the substitutions, tiredness or the desire to play open rugby they stopped using their process and tried to play fast and loose with in particular far too many attempted offloads. That together, with luck for the Renegades with the refereeing decisions that had gone to the Exiles in the first half and two crucial lucky bounces of the oval ball, meant that the Renegades scored three short range and opportunist tries despite strong and heroic Cambridge defence, two converted. For short spells, Cambridge went through the phases and our third debutante Stan scored two excellent short range tries himself off third phase drives, both converted.

With the score at 38-33 the game entered its final phase, and after injuries to Lewis who had played an impressive game at tight head, and Dick, replacing Lewis, the Exiles scrum buckled for the first time in the match, Renegades pushed them off the ball and scored from close range. The conversion gave them the win as there was simply not enough time for Cambridge to win the ball back and attack with their fourteen men.

Overall, the pack put in a great effort: Ted, Liam, Julian, Jake and Sam all joining with Louis, Lewis and Stan in the first half strength with Cesar and Kyle showing potential in the second half. Strong tackling across the backs, Nick, Stef, Asbel, Coops, Alex, Adam and Matt all doing their bit.

So near and yet so far, the Exiles had lost a game they should still have won even with their depleted team, but heads up - it was a great effort and the lesson of following process will be learned at training this week before our first league game of the season against local rivals Shelford next week.

Scorers

Tries: Coops 2, Adam, Alex, Stan 2

Conversions: Stef 4

Team

Stan Meadhurst, Sam Heenan, Lewis Harvey, Julian Mannion, Jake Letch, Ted Watts, Liam Clarke, Louis Bodrozic, Nick Apps, Stef Liebenberg, Alex Howard, Asbel Rodriguez, Sean Cooper, Adam Griffiths, Matt Parkes

Replacements: Dick Wallin, Cesar Belloso, Kyle Kotkin-Smith, Darren Messenger (did not play.)

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