Cantabs 2s made the short trip across to local rivals Cambridge for the final game of 2016. A heavy pitch but generally good conditions prevailed and both teams were hopeful of putting in a strong performance.
Chris Lovett returned at fly half whilst in the pack Nathan Davenport made his Cantabs debut in the second row.
Cantabs warmed up well and where switched on for game time, with a few choice words from Laurence and Lovett and the game was underway.
Cantabs kicked off towards the clubhouse and put pressure on the kick off, with Cambridge looking to make progress in the tight channels. Cantabs defending was sharp and Dan, Matt and Laurence in the back row were being especially effective in chopping down Cambridge attackers.
With Jamie and Zandy combining well in the centres Cantabs attack was looking sharp and when play was slow Darren and Nathen especially were stepping up to make the hard yards and keep Cambridge on the back foot. Unfortunately for Luke his game was not to last long and a groin injury forced him from the field, with Gideon taking his place.
For the first quarter play swayed between the 22s with Cantabs pressure defence penalised 3 times in succession for not rolling away.
Cantabs managed to get their name on the scoreboard first when a kick through from Josh was mistimed by the Cambridge full back and when the loose ball was also fumbled, Jamie was first to apply downward pressure near to the righthand upright. Lovett converted and Cantabs had a 7-0 lead.
Tozer and Darren were doing a great job containing a strong Cambridge tight 5 and making every ball contestable.
Nathan claimed the kick off and returned, with the forwards working hard to secure the ball and provide Will with the platform which has been occasionally lacking in recent weeks. With good service Lovett had time on the ball and was able to probe the corners effectively whilst great effort in the breakdown area from Ryan and Ollie yielded a penalty for Cantabs which Lovett nudged into the corner. Laurence called for a shortened lineout and claimed the ball himself, and with the supporting forwards arriving Cantabs managed to control the drive for Ryan to touch down, a fabulous forwards try straight of the training ground. The conversion went astray but Cantabs were now 12-0 to the good.
With half time approaching Cambridge hit back, as a missed tackle from the set piece and a great line from the centre saw them touch down to take the game to within a score 12-7.
On the stroke of half time Cantabs were awarded another penalty on the 22 and Lovett duly converted to take the score to 15-7. As the teams changed ends Cantabs spoke of the positivity and intensity that needed to continue to close out the game. Ryan was struggling with injury and so took a break, with Tim coming in to the front row.
Cambridge were first to strike in the second half scoring out to the left, with the conversion staying out to take the scores to 15-12.
With the ball moving well through the hands, Cantabs were guilty of killing some of the width on a few occasions, but Gideon and Rick were finding good ground stepping back inside. Gideon received the ball on the halfway and stepped inside three Cambridge defenders and turned on the afterburners, a desperate tackle couldnt stop him from grounding beneath the posts, where Lovett converted. Cantabs had a 10 point buffer.
Wy took to the field for Ollie in the second row but Cantabs ended up conceding ground with a succession of penalties for the home team. The Cambridge outhalf stepped up and slotted the penalty from 20 meters out. 22-15.
Cantabs injury tally was starting to mount as Matts shoulder gave out and Josh had to leave the pitch with a blow to the head. This meant Ollie and Ryan returned to the back row and, shorn of backs replacements, Dan slotted in on the wing.
Then Cantabs were dealt another blow as a missed tackle saw Cambridge capitalise and their loose head was on hand to take the offload and show a surprising burst of speed for the try. The scores were level after the conversion 22-22.
Cantabs put great pressure on the take and Cambridge conceded a penalty for offside. Lovett pushed the ball into touch 10 meters out which Laurence again claimed to set up another lineout drive, looking to lock down the victory and the 4th try. Cantabs initially made good ground but were penalised and Cambridge were able to clear. This was the last significant attack of the game and with Cambridge awarded a penalty on half way they elected to end the game by putting the ball into touch and after a moments confusion the final score was declared as 22-22.
Not the result that Cantabs were hoping for but the team resolve was to be admired. A few training points to take into the Christmas break but if we can continue to play and train with that intensity then we should have a very successful 2017.
MOTM: lots of contenders here, Matt had another stormer, Zandy and Jamie worked well in the midfield but making his Cantabs debut with a very assured 80mins this weeks man of the match goes to Nathan Davenport.
DOTD: For rocking up late and Darren
Special mention also goes to Richard Knight for making me look beautiful again
Cantabs 22 (15)
Tries (3) Faed, Colclough, Emmanuel
Conversions (2) Lovett (2)
Pen (1) Lovett
Cambridge 22 (7)
Tries (3) Conversions (2) Pen (1)