Cantabs took a mix of new and familiar faces to Cambourne for the second game of the year in pretty much perfect rugby conditions. After a well drilled and strongly attended preseason, there were plenty of players looking to secure their place in the team. A fair few dropouts close to the game meant a bit of reshuffling in the forwards, but we took to the field with a strong side intent on making an impact.
Cantabs took the kick off and for the first 20 minutes we were continually frustrated by a strong Cambourne start, failing to translate our discipline in practice into performance on the match day - lineouts looked a little scrappy and we continued to give away the ball through handling errors. One area where we looked dominant all day however was the scrum, consistently winning our own and causing a nuisance with theirs. Our front row has pretty much doubled in size since last season and it was showing! Despite the strength at the scrum, some further errors from the Cantabs camp left Cambourne with the ball and space to the left. A few missed tackles and our backs got sucked in, and Cambourne touched down under the posts for an unconverted try, first blood to Cambourne.
After the first 20 minutes, Cantabs finally put their game faces on and started taking the ball to Cambourne, crashing up through their defence with purpose. We made good use of Shane R and the hosts struggled to restrain his running. After multiple phases we worked the ball in to sight of their try line, pulled in their defence and then sent the ball wide to Shane, who went over for our first try.
After we put the first points on the board, the floodgates seemed to open a bit and we were able to demonstrate some fast paced, decisive running rugby. Drew made an excellent break through to the Cambourne 22 and we started applying the pressure. The forwards were doing a great job supporting runners, and our game plan based on quick offloads and running rugby started working well for us with Denman and Nat both braking through their defence with ball in hand. Cantabs were awarded a penalty just short of the try line, and we (Justin) took it quickly (no surprise there). Good rucking and sustained pressure from this gave us a second try before half time with newcomer Shane B going over after multiple phases, after Cambourne held Mikey short just shy of the line.
Going into the second half with a 12-5 lead, we knew we’d have to continue with the same level of intensity in order to keep the game in our favour. Straight off the whistle we collected the ball and made some strong runs through the forwards. Some good phases and great defensive lineouts followed, and we were rewarded with Nat going over the line breaking through 4 of their defenders (not sure what he was doing on the wing though….) Good to see a level of Northern aggression that may have been a bit absent last year.
The forwards provided a much more solid platform in the second half, and this allowed the backs to finally start running at Cambourne. The experience of Tim and Walliker certainly showed, giving some strength and presentation to our rucks. Nigel made way for Jack at scrum half, who continued to feed good ball to Alex at 10. Having an inexperienced 13 meant largely simple plays in the centre partnership, but Drew held my hand and we linked up for some strong running. Both Julian and Mateus on the wings showed great potential, with Mateus making 50 metres on one occasion before being bundled in to touch. Ash was looking good at Full Back too, collecting the high ball well and running strongly at the home side.
Despite our good form, Cambourne shipped a quick ball to their 13 (Deano), who ran sideways through our defence and was eventually stopped on our 5. They rucked over however and retained the ball, shipping the ball back to Dean to go over. A Cambourne move very much against the run of play, and consolation to see that one of their tries was scored by a Cantab in a yellow shirt.
Cantabs put the pressure back on and the tries followed. Denman went over after some great support of Drew and Alex, and Jules went over in the corner after a solid run with ball in hand (where I was certain he’d be tackled – no offence Jules). Another Cantabs try came from some good awareness from Johnny after a lineout went to pot, collecting the ball in the disarray and making his way straight through the Cambourne defence. Alex put up the final points of the game, running well and getting his first score in a Cantabs shirt.
Some real positives to take from the game and great to see a good number of Cantabs supporters on the side lines.
Hopefully we can retain this momentum and take it into our league games.
Dick of the day went to Jack Sykes for a missed conversion right in front of the stick, and man of the match went to Mateus, who joined us during the preseason new to the sport and had a really good debut game on the wing.