This weekend saw Cantabs 2s take on Cambridge in the cup looking to secure a place in the final. Cantabs featured Ollie Townsend making his first start at fly half, with Drew returning from injury in the inside centre channel. The Cs pack was bolstered by the returning Darren Carew and Charlie Searle but was otherwise unchanged from last weekends victory over Shelford.
A strong home crowd gathered alongside the Long road pitch to cheer on Cantabs and the weather looked favourable to an entertaining game. The captains played guess which hand the rock is in (the ref had forgotten his coins) and Laurence elected to play with the breeze in the first half.
The first 20 minutes were a disjointed affair, in which every moment of Cantabs endeavour seemed to result in a penalty to the Blood and Sand. One facet of the game which was functioning well was the scrum, where Cambridge were being walked back repeatedly. At one point the Cambridge front row completely disintegrated leaving the Cantabs pack marching up field. The broken Cambridge defenders allowed to pressurise Joe on the pick up to nullify the Cantabs advantage.
Strong running from the Cambridge backs allowed them to secure the first points of the game, with their fly half slotting the extras to make it 7-0.
Shortly after the score a Cambridge attack down the left was spilt forwards and Finlay rushed forward to gather and play the advantage, spilling in the progress. The scrum was awarded to Cambridge and they were able to recover the ball from their rapidly retreating scrum.
Ed had to take a break from play for a knock to the nose, with Jake coming on in his place.
Cantabs were unable to exit their half successfully for a significant period despite excellent work around the breakdown and found themselves with a 5m defensive scrum. The ball was secured but the clearance kick was sliced and gathered by the Cambridge centre who was dragged down short of the line but phase after phase of Cambridge attack saw them go over for a second despite protestations. Again the kick was good and the game was slipping away (14-0)
More aggression from Cantabs and excellent work around the breakdown from Dan, Jake and Charlie (to name a few) was seldom rewarded and the lineout was misfiring, making retaining significant periods of possession difficult. Another penalty was awarded against Cantabs and was struck into the corner. A well set maul was rumbled towards the line before coming down a few metres short. The Cambridge forwards kept hold of the ball and rumbled around the corner. Jake looked to have held the ball well up but the try was awarded, this time the extras faded to the right but 19-0 was looking imposing.
Cantabs finally decided to start playing simple rugby. The set piece was being called all over the place so all ball was kept in hand and rumbled on, using our support runners and spreading the ball well to take us up into the Cambridge 22. The ball was spun out to the left where Puds was brought down short and the ball recycled for Tozer to force himself over, lifting Cantabs spirits. Josh made an excellent conversion to bring it to 19-7. Ed returned to the field having been suitably bunged up to tissue paper and Vaseline.
Cambridge were soon back in the Cantabs half but our defensive line was operating well and putting pressure on the Cambridge runners. A break down the left was snuffed out by a superb tackle from Nat throwing the Cambridge attacker into touch. The lineout failed to hit its mark and Cambridge had the ball again. A penalty was awarded to Cambridge (ideas on a postcard please) and they elected to go for the posts, the well struck kick taking it back past 2 scores at 22-7. Cantabs continued to press before half time but reward was not forthcoming.
Cantabs continued this attacking mentality into the second half, pressuring Cambridge in attack and defence. Drew and Puds were carrying strongly and the back 3 were getting more involved in the game, hitting lines off of shoulders and causing Cambridge real issues. The ball was taken close to the Cambridge line but was spilt by Darren as he looked to batter through the Blood and Sand line. The scrum was taken against the head and moved right, with Ollie able to wriggle his way over in the corner. Another excellent kick from Josh took us to 22-14 and the momentum of the game was starting to swing in Cantabs direction. Cantabs returned themselves to a similar position after a loose ball was nudged on and chased and gathered by Laurence and recycled, Darren hit it up and Nat almost made the corner before the ball was shipped back inside to Laurence. However the eagle eyed touch judge spotted a foot in touch and Cambridge where able to relieve pressure.
Cantabs pressure was leaving Cambridge with fewer options and they elected for an abitious kick at goal from 48m out which faded left. Nat left the ball which went over the try line and dribbled back out but was able to clear up what looked like a dangerous bouncing ball and exit the red zone. Cambridge did well to ship the ball from right to left and nudge the ball ahead. Harri scampered back, gathered the ball and set of in attack, stepped the defender but planted his foot awkwardly and buckled, going down in a significant amount of pain. This led to a significant break in play as the stretcher was retrieved from the clubhouse and an ambulance summoned. Harri seemed much happier after using the NHS years supply of gas an air. Full diagnosis should be known in a couple of weeks but we all wish Harri a speedy and full recovery, see you back on the pitch soon buddy.
Fergus came on in his place, with Jake returning to the field for Nat and Guns coming on for Drew, who was struggling after a monumental effort on his first game back for 5 weeks. This delay in play took some of the wind out of the Cantabs attack and Cambridges defensive line held firm. Despite their best efforts the game was out of hands and a spilt ball in the final attack of the game was nudged into touch by Cambridge to finish the game.
Disappointment for the 2s and plenty to work on for the final games of the season, we need to be more composed under pressure and execute better. However the attitude in the second half was excellent and it was an absolute pleasure to play alongside every one of you today. See you all at training on Tuesday. #Cantabsfamily
Cantabs 14 (7)
Tries: Tozer, Townsend
Conversions: Schmidt (2)
Cambridge 22 (22)
Tries (3), Conversions (2), Penalties (1)
MOTM: strong performances across the park Ollie preformed admirably despite having a target on him all game. Nat was strong as ever and Jake was excellent over the ball. However this weeks man of the match goes to Mr Angry doing what he does best and being a pain all day long.
DOTD: Every player put their bodies on the line today and I cannot ask for more. However there where a few questionable decision making moments e.g Nat leaving the ball rather than tapping down for a 22 drop out, but todays award goes to Finlay for reacting to the ref for awarding a scrum to Cambridge when he had knocked the ball back.