Honours even between Cambridge and Plymouth Albion in National League One
Published: 17:51, 02 November 2019
Updated: 17:59, 02 November 2019
Game management will be the big lesson learnt by Cambridge in their 20-20 draw with Plymouth Albion at Volac Park on Saturday.
Draws are something of a sparsity in rugby union, but no-one can quibble with the outcome as squally conditions made for tough going as defences were on top in a match of few opportunities for either set of backs.
Having gained a 20-0 lead in the first half, Cambridge will perhaps kick themselves that they did not go on to take victory, but they should not do so.
What the hosts should look to take from the fixture is the controlled nature of their game in the first half, and the composure they showed from a tough position in the second half to grind out a result.
But they will also need to learn from some of their mistakes in a 20-minute period when Plymouth scored all of their points.
With the wind in their favour, half-backs Kieran Duffin and Ben Penfold set the agenda to nudge Cambridge into the right areas of the pitch and force their visitors onto the back foot.
Equally as impressive was the defensive effort and work at the breakdown, with Plymouth unable to find a way forward by going through the phases, and having to kick and cede possession to the hosts.
It was controlled aggression and speed from Cambridge in the collision area, forcing their opponents into mistakes, while scrums were a bit of a lottery for both sides as it proved hard to ascertain the reasons for numerous decisions.
Penfold had kicked Cambridge ahead through a penalty after three minutes, and then a catch and drive from a line-out led to hooker Mike Mayhew touching down after 11 minutes.
Penfold’s conversion and another penalty made it 13-0 after 19 minutes.
A well-controlled attack showing great patience and multiple phases led to Matt Hema taking a pass at pace on the charge to touch down, with Penfold’s extras making it 20-0.
However, despite Cambridge being in control for 39 minutes, Plymouth had shown tenacity to dig deep and strike moments before the break.
Dan Swain had shown his threat when making a break only for Alex Ducker’s try to be ruled out for a forward pass, but the flanker made no mistake minutes later.
A cheap penalty had cost Cambridge field position and, from the subsequent line-out, after four phases of play Swain touched down, with Connor Eastgate converting to make it 20-7.
It was not quite self-destruct, but Cambridge were proving their own worst enemies at the start of the second half.
Having only conceded four penalties during the first period, they doubled that tally by the 53rd minute, and Eastgate had made them pay with two monster kicks to reduce the arrears to 20-13.
An unknown voice on the pitch had recognised the danger and, to put it in more family-friendly language, warned his team-mates that two kicks had cost them and they needed to look after the ball better.
Plymouth’s pack, with the wind behind them, had gained the ascendancy, but there was still some stoic defence from Cambridge to push them back.
However, after being held up on the line a couple of times, a few pick and gos later saw George Mills, who caught the eye with a huge effort all game for Plymouth, touched down. Eastgate’s conversion made it 20-20 after 67 minutes.
What was to follow was impressive from Cambridge.
With the wind and a rising penalty count against them, it was going to take something big to keep out the visitors and it was what they delivered.
Kicking to clear their lines would have given cheap possession to Plymouth, and put them on the front foot and on the hunt for a penalty for Eastgate to work his magic.
Instead, Cambridge went through the phases.
They were calm, composed and disciplined as they worked their way from their own 22 to halfway, and then earned a penalty to kick for touch.
It was sensible and intelligent game management to take the sting and threat out of the visitors, and saw them finish on an attacking footing.
A win is always desirable at home, but it would seem fair to say that most inside the ground will have been content with both the result and the performance.
Cambridge: Tarrant; Henderson, Hema, Brown, Green; Penfold, Duffin; Langley, Mayhew, Peck, Bretag-Norris, Baxter, Moore, Sloot, Adams.
Replacements: Dawson (Bretag-Norris, 41), Rayment (Mayhew, 53), Creighton (Duffin, 53), Meek (Langley, 61).
Plymouth Albion: Putt; Skelcey, Eastgate, Pohe, Ducker; Morley, Snow; Higgins, Norey, Pullinger, Pearson, Makepeace, Swain, Mills, Kelly.
Replacements: Salter (Norey, 67).
Referee: Daniel Collins.
Scores: 3min Penfold pen (3-0), 11 Mayhew try - Penfold con (10-0), 19 Penfold pen (13-0), 30 Hema try - Penfold con (20-0), 40+1 Swain try - Eastgate con (20-7), 49 Eastgate pen (20-10), 52 Eastgate pen (20-13), 67 Mills try - Eastgate con (20-20).