Alex Rayment try seals Cambridge victory over Cinderford in National League One
Alex Rayment’s try was decisive as Cambridge ground out a 10-6 win over Cinderford in National League One.
It was a battle of the heavyweights in a game that could hardly be described as a great spectacle, or even one for the purists, but was wrought with tension.
If you were rugby fan who prefers the nuances of defence then this was for you, but if you preferred a bit more attacking zeal or running rugby, it is probable that this was one to miss.
Cinderford are rock solid, and not shy in coming forward, it was just it was a bit more about attrition rather than precision, and the same can be said of the hosts.
Therefore, the two sides cancelled each other out in a match of penalties, scrums and line-outs.
Very few set pieces were won against the head, but equally there was very limited quick ball.
It must be noted, though, that Cambridge had the upper hand when it came to turnovers, a sure sign of their defence, and at crucial times as well. It is why credit must go to their collective efforts in repelling a Cinderford side that are above them in the table.
With regards to defence, in a battle of the heavyweights, it was the player who punches above his weight that stood out most for Cambridge.
Louis Rawlings is one of the smaller flankers in the division, but he is never afraid of throwing his body on the line and it would be interesting to see his individual tackle count from the game as it must have been very high.
There was also an impressive home debut from Ramaz Rukhadze in the second half, with the loose-head prop putting in a big shift round the pitch and also producing a good scrummaging display.
Ben Penfold had kicked Cambridge ahead after 14 minutes, but Cinderford went down the other end to draw things level through Liam Hemming’s penalty three minutes later.
The visitors then got the upper hand for the remainder of the first half, but it was those vital turnovers and defence that meant Cambridge kept them at bay, with the score staying 3-3 at the break.
There was a vital tag-team defence from Kwaku Asideu and Rawlings on Cinderford’s Ewan Fenley two minutes into the second half, just as it looked like the scrum-half might break clear.
Hemming slotted a penalty in the 45th minute to make it 6-3 to Cinderford, and then a long encampment followed for Cambridge in the visitors’ 22.
As the penalty count went up against the Forest of Dean side, Cambridge were trying to turn the screw.
Rather than take the points, they were trusting their set piece and going for touch. Mathew Lane was sin-binned during that spell, but when Cambridge were turned over in the 22 without adding a point, you wondered whether they would live to regret it.
However, they returned to the 22, and still with a player advantage, debutant Josua Lewanituva was held up over the line, but not too long later, a 5m scrum was picked up by Jake McCloud, recycled by George Bretag-Norris and then Rayment picked up the baton to touch down.
It was richly deserved for Cambridge’s trust that their set-piece could bring them rewards, and Penfold’s penalty gave them a four-point lead.
Cinderford were not finished, and in the last five minutes, they earned a penalty in the Cambridge 22 which they also elected to kick for touch.
Having set up the rolling maul, they called in more of the backs to try to drive them over the line but Cambridge’s defence was strong again as they won the turnover to allow to clear their lines.
That moment perhaps epitomised the display as while it was not pretty, it was certainly wholehearted and could not be questioned for endeavour.
But, most importantly, it brought a vital win to see Cambridge move 10 points clear of the relegation places.
Cambridge: Patrick; Asiedu, J Ayrton, Penfold, Ayrton; Rayner, Keenan; Meek, Ruddock, Higgins, Bretag-Norris, Conquest, Moore, Rawlings, Fox.
Replacements: Rukhadze (Meek, 45), McCloud (Moore, 45), Yayayawa (Rayner, 50), Lewanituva (Patrick, 50), Rayment (Ruddock, 63).
Cinderford: Hawley; Smith, Babarinsa, Boulton, Norville; Hemming, Fenley; Porter, Taylor, Elliott, Evans, Lemon, Lane, Broady, Hone.
Replacements: Mullis (Taylor, 6), Baldwin (Smith, 40), Smart (Broady, 71), Ryan (Lane, 71), Pointon (Fenley, 75).
Scorers:: 14min Penfold pen (3-0), 17 Hemming pen (3-3), 45 Hemming pen (3-6), 72 Rayment try – Penfold con (10-6).
Sin bin: Cinderford – Lane (technical offence, 60).
Referee: Jack Lewars.