Attacking verve steers Cambridge to victory over Darlington Mowden Park in National League One
Support was the overwhelming feature as Cambridge earned a vital 29-15 win over Darlington Mowden Park in National League One.
Off the pitch, it came through the supporters creating a good atmosphere at Volac Park and, more importantly, on the pitch it came by working as a team and in pairs - simply through support play.
All too often this season, the work of the ball carrier has been slightly letdown by no-one on the supporting shoulder to take the offload.
There has been a lone wolf scenario, although it has not been the wolf’s fault, more the lack of a hunting pack.
That was corrected against Mowden Park as Cambridge went out to stalk their prey and, by working as a pack, got their rewards.
The defence has been resolute all season, but there has been a sparsity about too much of Cambridge’s attacking play in multiple areas - support play, looking and finding space, and line breaks.
A flying start that was full of energy and positive urgency set the tone for what was to come and, somewhat frustratingly given their position in the table, showed what they are capable of achieving.
Alex Rayment burst through multiple tackles to get the opening try after just four minutes and that surging break was typical of the hooker’s performance all afternoon.
He was barnstorming in the loose with ball in hand, and at the breakdown, and was deservedly named the sponsors’ man of the match.
There are honorable mentions for Fin Creighton who, on his full home debut, delivered the quick ball away from the breakdown that allowed Cambridge to get on the front foot and gave energy to the attack.
Also, Joey Patrick impressed at full-back for 50 minutes, seeking to find the gaps and keep the ball alive.
All-round, though, it was a day when Cambridge stood up to be counted as their display fully warranted the win, and a try bonus point for only the fourth time this season.
There was a blow for Mowden Park before kick-off as their fly-half was injured in the warm-up and director of rugby Danny Brown had to go on the bench as a result. And then, in the 20th minute, they lost their scrum-half Matthew Dudman to injury.
At that point, Mowden Park held a 10-7 lead, after Jordan Poole had touched down a response to Rayment’s try, and Garry Law kicking a conversion and then a penalty.
Cambridge had kept their cool though, and towards the end of the half some patience attacking the Mowden Park line led to them moving play wide for Gillian Benoy to touch down in the corner.
Ben Penfold landed the conversion and then kicked a penalty to make it 17-10 at half time.
Cambridge started the second half with the same vigour they approached the first, and it brought the same rewards when good recycling along the line led to Mike Ayrton making a smart break, and Creighton was there in support to take the off-load to touch down.
Darlington had Callum Mackenzie sin-binned in the 46th minute, and David Fisher followed in the 63rd minute, and it was while the latter was off that Cambridge got their bonus-point winning fourth try.
Turnover was won on halfway, and when Lawrence Rayner chipped into the corner, Ayrton won the race and, after the referee conferred with his assistant, it was deemed the winger had grounded the ball just before it had gone out of play.
Defence was to the fore in the closing stages as Darlington tried to stage a comeback but, although Law pulled back a try, it was to be Cambridge’s day.
It also turned into a vital win as Esher and Loughborough Students, who are below them in the table also earned five-point wins.
Next weekend, Cambridge are away to Rosslyn Park.
Cambridge: Patrick; M Ayrton, Hema, J Ayrton, Green; Benfold, Creighton; Peck, Rayment, Higgins, Bretag-Norris, Baxter, Benoy, Rawlings, Moore.
Replacements: McCloud (Moore, 37), Ibrahim (Higgins, 53), Lewanituva (Patrick, 55), Rayner (Hema, 60), Moore (Rawlings, 60), Patrick (Penfold, 53), Meek (Rayment, 73).
Darlington Mowden Park: Walker; McCartney, Frankland, Law, Mackenzie; Stokes, Dudman; Barron, Poole, Appleby, Vaioleti, Craggs, Fisher, Heaton, Hodgson.
Replacements: Gibbs (Dudman, 20), Brady (Stokes, 54), Stokes (Vaioleti, 65), Westwood (Appleby, 73), Vaioleti (Gibbs, 80).
Scorers: 4min Rayment try - Penfold con (7-0), 8 Poole try - Law con (7-7), 14 Law pen (7-10), 36 Benoy try - Penfold con (14-10), 40+4 Penfold pen (17-10), 43 Creighton try - Penfold con (24-10), 65 M Ayrton try (29-10), 80 Law try (29-15).
Referee: Jack Lewars.
Sin bin: Darlington Mowden Park - Mackenzie (technical offence, 46), Fisher (foul play, 63).