Army forward Matt Dawson delivers star show for Cambridge in National League One
Matt Dawson stepped out of the comfort zone to produce a man-of man-of-the-match display in Cambridge’s 37-31 win over Sale FC, but is not keen on repeating the trick too often.
Rob Conquest, Gareth Baxter and Kailus Hutchinson were all on the absentee list, leaving Cambridge with a conundrum at lock.
It meant emergency service for the Army back-row forward alongside captain George Bretag-Norris, and he rose to the challenge with a try in an all-action display.
“I didn’t realise that I would be playing second row when I went to training on Thursday and I thought they were joking, to be honest, but needs must,” said Dawson.
“It’s the first time I’ve played second row, ever. It’s not an experience that I enjoyed but needs must.
“Round the field material is nothing different, but for myself with the scrummaging, it took me probably about three or four scrums to actually work out the correct position.
“It’s just a different way to use your muscles more than anything, and the strain on your face and your back is a bit different than my attempts to lean on at flanker.”
Dawson is not currently with the Army side because of work commitments, but is aiming to join up with them in March ahead of the clashes with the RAF and then the Royal Navy at Twickenham.
It is a benefit for Cambridge that he is currently not with the senior squad, as Dawson’s physicality is a big asset.
The pack produced a huge display against a visually far bigger pack, and they were moved into good positions by half-backs Kieran Duffin and Ben Penfold.
Joe Tarrant scored two tries and Andrew Henderson, Matt Hema, Penfold and Ned Brown got one apiece to build a 37-17 lead after 62 minutes, but a yellow card allowed Sale back in to score two late tries.
“It was a tough match, to be honest,” said Dawson.
“We always knew that Sale would bring a big intensity to the game, but for ourselves it was about having that heart and determination to bounce back from that defeat from last week [against Rosslyn Park] to turn around and win it for the home crowd.
“When we played Sale away, they really brought the physicality to us and we didn’t quite meet it on that day, but I felt in certain areas we really did meet them up front, especially on the driving mauls.
“There was some great running rugby, and it’s nice to see we’re bringing the flair back and having those offloads and the lads really pulled it out of the bag for that.”
This Saturday (February 15), Cambridge are away to Plymouth Albion.
“It’s going to be a tough fixture,” said Dawson. “No-one really goes to Plymouth and has a fun time. Conditions on the south coast aren’t known for being pleasurable.
“I think it’s going to be a case of going down there and showing a bit of heart like we did against Sale and coming away with some points.”