Jack Green boots Cambridge to unexpected win
PUBLISHED: 21:12 01 October 2016 | UPDATED: 21:28 01 October 2016
Iliffe Media Ltd
Late drama earns victory
Never in doubt, three words that you would not have believed after Cambridge’s astonishing 35-34 win over Loughborough Students in National League One.
The Volac Park faithful could never claim to be short-changed when it comes to entertainment, but it is difficult to remember a match going through such a dramatic late turnaround.
As the clock runs, in the 77th minute Cambridge were trailing 34-14 after a patchy performance. By the 84th minute, Jack Green was about to land the match-winning conversion to make it 35-34.
Whether the victory was deserved will depend on which side of the fence you sit, but if only for their perseverance and never-say-die attitude then Cambridge can give themselves a pat on the back for taking all five points.
In the perils of instant interviews when emotions are running high, director of rugby Ross Stewart described the display as “poor, really poor” but it would be interesting to know his thoughts after analysing the game.
Of course, when you give yourselves such an uphill battle in the closing stages there are going to be things that are wrong, but they were largley down to individual errors.
Missed tackles was one of the biggest complaints, and that comes down to application on the day – no player would be selected if they did not have it as a basic skill.
The defensive line-out was another area that could be criticised. Loughborough were winning far too much off the top and at the tail, and that gave them the opportunity to get on the front foot.
And that first up runner was going through the first tackle far too easily, and once the last man was drawn it gave them a simple canter to the line.
Another complaint was under the high ball, as numerous times Loughborough full-back Will Edwards went high and long and was somehow then able to collect at the other end. It gave the visitors such an easy out, and was part of the overall frustration of the afternoon.
Loughborough were always expected to be vibrant, fit and energetic, and they were so quick to the tackle and breakdown area, and this was where Cambridge seemed to compete well.
They produced a consistent performance throughout the 80 plus minutes in the collision area, while it could be argued that tiredness crept into the Loughborough play in those closing minutes, and that it was a contributing factor in the stream of penalties that they conceded to lose field position.
And when Cambridge worked in units, they showed what they were capable of achieving.
For spells in the game they had too many players trying to do too much on their own, but once they went back to the collective, they reaped the rewards and there was no greater example than Mike Ayrton’s last-minute try.
It was just that they had made it so difficult for themselves to even get close to gaining victory.
Loughborough were a good side and they made Cambridge work so hard for everything, while Cambridge were the perfect hosts, handing so much on a plate and you cannot afford to do that, especially against a side with such a clinical edge.
Green’s conversion clinched the win, but it was the fly-half’s introduction, along with that of club captain Stefan Liebenberg, that gave their attacking credentials a second wind.
Josh Sharp had kicked Loughborough ahead, but Jake McCloud, who is certainly one to watch as the season develops for Cambridge, picked up from the back of the scrum to touch down beneath the posts after Andrew Boyce had been sin-binned for the Students.
But they hit back as Cambridge dithered in defence, getting the ball to Gair Currie to touch down, and Sharp’s conversion made it 10-7 at half time.
And while the Students were still down to 14, Currie got his second converted try for 17-7.
James Ayrton collected a pass from Lawrence Hutchinson to touch down to reduce the arrears, but in 11 minutes, Loughborough surged clear as Sharp landed a penalty, Yiannis Loizias scored and Currie completed his hat-trick to make it 34-14.
Charlie Dockery’s yellow card in the 74th minute gave Cambridge hope of getting a try back, but even they may have struggled to believe what was to happen next.
McCloud managed to dance his way over the line, and Green landed the conversion to give an outside hope of one, maybe two bonus points.
Great work along the line from the restart led to some nimble footwork on the angle for Chris Leathem to dart through and score beneath the posts, with Green converting to get at least one bonus point.
And then, in the last minute, some diving for the line ended with Cambridge going wide and Mike Ayrton managing to ground in the corner, with the referee first conferring with his assistant before awarding the try.
It was all on Green to land the conversion, and from a tricky position he obliged to seal Cambridge’s unexpected victory.
“We said one bonus point, get four tries, we walk out of here, move on to next week and be disappointed with what we’ve done,” said Stewart.
“To then get two (bonus points), and then you’re thinking ‘we’ll take that’, a bit like the Rosslyn Park game.
“And then fair play to Jack Green. We dropped him the week before and one of the messages was his kicking wasn’t as consistent, and as a player he disagreed, so I said ‘well, prove me wrong’, and he has.
“And he did at Darlington, he nudged one from the touchline so fair play to Jack, he is kicking very well.
“But that’s what we want. We want responses from players who don’t always agree with coaches, but it’s about a positive reaction, and that’s what he’s done.”
Cambridge: Leathem; Hutchinson, Hema, J Ayrton, M Ayrton; Lewis, Trotter; Reeves, Griffiths, Langley, Meek, Bretag-Norris, Nutley, Jeffs, McCloud.
Replacements: Green (Lewis, 48), Liebenberg (Trotter, 48), Johnson (Nutley, 51), Naqasima (Langley, 62), Ruddock (Griffiths, 62), Nutley (Meek, 69).
Loughborough Students: Edwards; Loizias, Dockery, Currie, Segun; Sharp, Simmons; Brugnara, Miller, Betts, Macpherson, Pitfield, Gracey, Boyce, Kingham.
Replacements: Lasis (Pitfield, 52), Pointon (Simmons, 52), Adams (Miller, 69), Beckett (Segun, 69), Pitfield (Kingham, 75).
Referee: Adam Leal.
Sin bin: Loughborough – Boyce (technical offence) 36, Dockery (foul play) 74.
Scorers: 6min Sharp pen (0-3), 38 McCloud try – Lewis con (7-3), 40 Currie try – Sharp con (7-10), 44 Currie try – Sharp con (7-17), 50 J Ayrton try – Green con (14-17), 65 Loizias try – Sharp con (14-27), 68 Currie try – Sharp con (14-34), 78 McCloud try – Green con (21-34), 80+1 Leathem try – Green con (28-34), 80+4 M Ayrton try – Green con (35-34).