Mildenhall and Red Lodge 22-46 Cambridge Exiles

This Cambridge Exiles team is very frustrating. Clearly talented and well drilled, they have not yet learned to be clinical. This week was no exception, though as ever, a bonus point win was an excellent outcome, with eight good tries. The trouble was the conceding of four tries for the second time in two weeks against, at best, mediocre opponents.

The pre-match team talk emphasised two things: first, the importance of starting with passion and positivity and second, not conceding any scores. The start looked good with Coops at fly half running the Exiles through the game plan. Three times they almost scored and were totally dominant, especially through the running and support play of young Stan who was rightly awarded Man of the Match, Jed, Julian, James, Chabs, Archie and Tall Guy. Banksie as ever won a couple of scrums against the head ably supported by his front row - although unusually, also lost one against the head. Then, the Mildenhall right wing got the ball in his own 22, and proved what a strong runner he was by going the length of the pitch, evading four tackles to score totally against the run of play and the first time in the Cambridge half. 5-0

Coops is a frustrating player. The international ‘mavericks’ Finn Russell and Marcus Smith do the unexpected and make it work. Coops does the unexpected and has a 50% hit rate. This match showed this at work. Following the restart though, he played the expected way and again the Cambridge team went through their patterns and were rewarded as they would expect, first Tall Guy Jake missing out on a Kylie cross kick follow up, which bounced cruelly over even his very high finger tips, then after a couple of tight phases, Coops spread the ball wide and Josh went over near the corner with an extra man spare on his outside. 5-5

Next, the Cambridge forwards drove a line out maul over the line, where inexplicably noone touched down only for Mildenhall to push them back again and clear. The next lineout went better, with Chabs seeing the line and driving over, carrying a couple of defenders, and touching down. 5-10

Tall Guy then used his long arms to reach out and touch down near the posts and Max’s conversion took the score to a more reflective 5-17.

Coops continued to mix intuitive play - which didn’t work - with the controlled game plan - which did - and again the ball came wide with the Mildenhall line beckoning and this time Josh stepped inside to touch down under the posts. Max converted with a quick drop goal and the Exiles were in a comfortable 5-24 lead and the try bonus completed.

After some Mildenhall pressure, well defended especially by Kiwi Stan at inside centre - second five eighth to him - and Kylie and Alex H on the right and left respectively, Nick made a break left and passed to Max on the wing who scored an excellent try in the corner, though there was some doubt whether Nick’s pass was actually forward. The score stayed as it was until half time, 5-29.

Darren made some changes for the second half, moving Coops to scrum half, and bringing Kieran and Caleb on in midfield, Bailey and Joe in the scrum and Adam on the wing. The instructions were clear again. Play our patterns and DO NOT let them score.

For Coops, this seemed to mean kicking to their strongest player, the right wing, and it was no surprise when after a couple of minutes Mildenhall had scored their second try. 10-29. Darren brought Liam into the back row.

This lead to one of the most frustrating periods as Coops moved from brilliance to idiocy with seeming ease. With a game plan keeping hold of the ball and making ground through tight drives earning the right to go wide, Coops’ repeated kicks had Darren in apoplexy. Then a moment of brilliance, as after Kieran dictated our play, Coops threw a dive spin pass that Gareth Edwards would have been proud of, straight to Caleb at outside centre who drew his man and gave a perfect pass to Alex H who accelerated for the line and touched down. 10-34

Next with a dummy and a swerve, Coops outsmarted the Mildenhall defence and beating at least four players touched down under the posts for Max to convert. 10-41.

A third bit of intelligent play saw Coops pass to Caleb on the blind whose quick hands gave Max the opportunity for his second excellent try diving into the corner. 10-46

The final change saw Dick come on to tight head for the last 15 minutes of play. A line out win, a line out steal, plus two dominant scrums showed there was still life in the 61.99 year old dog yet. Then a bizarre incident: the Mildenhall three was tackled one metre short of our line, Dick as first man in after the tackler,  jackled, hands under the ball, three didn’t release, other players arrived, the ref (Little Legs!) called ‘release three’, he did, so Dick came up with the ball. The ref yellow carded Dick (17) for not releasing. Dick has never in 50 years of playing rugby been yellow carded before and doesn’t get many chances to play, so was proper angry at going off. And still is… After the game, Little Legs said he felt he had to protect Dick from playing too much. No sour grapes from your correspondent…

Down to fourteen for the last nine minutes, the Exiles decided to switch off and Mildenhall scored two tries, one converted, to leave the final score 22-46 (though the ref forgot to mark one of our conversions, so officially 22-44.) From behind a red mist, it was hard to see how the tries happened!

So, overall then a very good result - a bonus point win - but leaving a level of frustration in the coaching team that the Exiles are not clinical at putting away poor teams, descending to their level of play. Still, in many ways, as a social side, so long as the wins keep coming it may be considered better to have a more competitive game than a massive 151-0 win, as North Walsham are doing in the north division of EC1. That has resulted in no game for them for the last two weekends as the opposition have not been prepared to get battered.

Scorers

Tries: Josh 2, Chabs, Tall Guy, Max 2, Alex H, Coops

Conversions: Max 3

Team

Stan Meadhurst, Simon Banks, Jed MacDonald, James Kennedy, Julian Mannion, Alex Chabala, Archie Davison, Jake Prier, Nick Apps, Sean Cooper, Max Burton, Stan Stanley, Joshua James Brown, Kyle Kotkin-Smith, Alex Howard

Replacements: Dick Wallin, Bailey Jarvis, Liam Clarke, Adam Griffiths, Joe Roberts, Kieran Shave, Caleb Stanley

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