[Report from your correspondent, Jim Tebbit, follows. Note that, as a builder he, of course, works to Imperial measurements...]
Cambridge 59 – 25 Haverhill
Having turned up with only 11 men, Haverhill forfeited the league game. However, so as not to disappoint the now deeply committed, near vast, array of Exiles supporters, Cambridge donated three of their usual starting players, and Coops, to Haverhill’s team.
Haverhill kicked off and after two promising phases from Cambridge, play descended, perhaps predictably for one and a half teams turning up for a kick around, into scrappy misfiring, handling errors and infringements on both sides. Failures of both teams to settle into set patterns and to protect the ball in the loose were proving throughout the game a constant challenge for the Cambridge scrum half.
After five minutes, just as the play was becoming difficult to watch, Max made an excellent steal in open play. Then, by moving himself and then the ball expertly to Stef, our leader made the much-needed line break and a beautifully timed pass to Jake aka “Tall Guy” who ran it in under the posts for Cambridge’s first try. Converted by Stef for a 7-0 lead after as many minutes.
It was twenty minutes in, and after a further thirteen minutes of handling errors later, when “Mighty Mini Maxi” showed some blistering pace off a ball from Cambridge’s own twenty-two yard (sic) line. Passing into the hands of George, who, coming off the wing and dancing through 3 sets of Haverhill back line, got the ball back into the hands of Cambridge scrum half Nick (who was clearly trying to make amends for that first five minutes) and ran in twenty-five yards under the posts for Cambridge’s second try, converted by our glorious leader, Stef. 14-0
Straight off the next kick Max collected a high ball and broke tackles to offload to Caleb who made a further 20 yards into Haverhill territory. After talking Coops into making the covering tackle for Haverhill, Caleb shipped it back inside to Stef who fumbled the catch for it to be collected by Caleb’s dad Stan, who ran in the third try for the Exiles in the twenty-seventh minute of the game. It was again converted with consummate ease by our beloved captain. 21-0
At this point Cambridge must have considered the game won, as what followed could only be explained and qualified by their long-suffering coach Darren Messenger MBE as an “utter cluster f*&$k of a defence”. This culminated in a loose fly hack and chase, which put Haverhill on the score sheet 21-5.
The fifth try of the game came as our beloved and glorious (did I mention handsome) leader took control of the deteriorating situation and sent a long pass wide to Caleb who characteristically ploughed and palmed his way through maroon clad friend and foe alike, making a fifteen-yard run to score under the posts. Converted by our righteous leader. 28-5
Strong running from Jamari and the Cambridge pack was prevalent but couldn’t compensate for the poor ball retention, Cadge looking for a scrap and shockingly bad discipline at the breakdown leading to two penalties in quick succession and a line-out to Haverhill on Cambridge’s five yard line. A clinical set and drive took them over the line to score. The conversion was missed. 28-10
“Not good enough.” DM OBE
Cambridge’s response was fierce, and the retribution was harsh. In the next 25 minutes sheer embarrassment of the previous errors had the effect of shoring up the forwards play, settling the team into a rhythm of retained possession and shaming the backline into action, led by Caleb and Stan and into scoring the fifth try (converted by our glorious and righteous leader.) 35-10
Cambridge went on to play phase after phase through virtually every set of hands to score a further try before the half time whistle. 40 -10
A squad of 40 was shuffled and substitutions made.
After an eloquent and rousing half time speech from head coach Darren Messenger KBE Cambridge started the second half as they did the first by falling over at the breakdown and conceding penalty after penalty. Different Cambridge players had also been swapped into the Haverhill team in the spirit of fairness and mainly to prove we could find another four who couldn’t throw or catch.
Saying this, Banksie, in the maroon of Haverhill, had a frantic moment of nearly hitting half speed as he fought to keep Cambridge pinned down in their own twenty-two. Alas for the visitors, handling errors allowed “Tall Guy” to run in another try for the home side within 2 minutes of the new half. Converted. 47-10
The Cambridge shape was beginning to come, our illustrious, righteous, glorious, Stefanus Ignatious trotting in a try to make the score 52-10. (That was the one he failed to convert.)
The score line did not bear heavily on the visitors, and they did have some ball and looked dangerous when it stayed in hand. Haverhill converting this determination to points with another try, unconverted. 52-15
With Banksie and Cadge now in the front row for Haverhill, the Cambridge scrum looked less effective, although this didn’t stop “Tall Guy” from running in another try to be converted by Stef, who then left the field. 59-15
Coops was brought back on for the home side at 10, Josh brought on in the centres. Time was running out now for the visitors, but they had a secret weapon/Latino dance coach in the form of Cesar. Bringing his overtly positive attitude and love for rugby and fellow man, he lifted the Haverhill back line to dizzying new heights of optimism. This sustained pressure rewarded Cesar with a try, and a massive fine, taking the score to 59-20
Haverhill, swept up on a Rhumba of Latin ecstasy, had one last card to play. Cambridge ill-discipline once again led to a scrum down on the home side’s five yard line. Where Cadge and Banksie led the pack to form a strong, driving platform for the Haverhill 8 to pick and go. He scored. Final score 59 – 25.