Ben Adams impressed as Cambridge turn on the style to beat Bishop’s Stortford in National League One
There was a party mood at Volac Park last Saturday, and Cambridge made sure that the high spirits were not just constrained to the bar.
With any outside hopes of finishing in the top two over after defeat at Rosslyn Park, there was no expectation or pressure on Richie Williams’ side against near-neighbours Bishop’s Stortford.
It meant that they well and truly kicked back in style in their final home game of the campaign, with just a trip to Rams this Saturday (April 30) remaining.
Ten tries in an end-to-end game, with the visitors contributing three, and a total of five yellow cards meant that you really could not take your eyes off the pitch as Cambridge ran out 41-19 winners.
It was not an afternoon for stuffiness, rigidness or, for that matter, structure as caution seemed to be thrown to the wind – quite literally given the gusty conditions – on a rock hard pitch that meant that the only option was running rugby.
Ben Brownlie, the division’s top try scorer and Cambridge’s hooker, got things off to a swift start with the first score inside two minutes from a familiar route, a catch and drive from a line-out.
There was an unrelenting nature to the way that the hosts were playing, and Lawrence Rayner had a key role in this with his kicking game, which was helping to turn Stortford to put them on the back foot.
They had the try bonus point by half time, thanks to scores from Will Wand, Harry Morley and Kieran Duffin, which made it 26-0.
Stortford became more of a force in the second half, with a penalty try and one each from Toby Knight and Harrison King, interspersed with a break-out effort from Joey Green for Cambridge.
However, Ben Adams and Jake Garside, both following turnovers and on the breakaway, completed the hosts’ victory.
“It was very stop-start,” said Adams. “A lot of ill-discipline forced the game into a bit of a scrappy affair but the fact of the matter is we’ve got five points and Bishop’s Stortford went away with none.
“It’s the end of the season, everyone is ready to show a bit of flair, play a bit of joie. It’s entertaining for the fans, but unfortunately it was just so stop-start with the ill-discipline.
“It was very vocal, the 16th man was out in force and that’s something we’ve really thrived on this season at home.
“It was very untraditional rugby and it was nice to see some running rugby after a very structured winter through scoring through set piece – it’s nice to get something that’s a bit more entertaining.”
Only two points separate second-placed Sale FC, third-placed Rosslyn Park and Cambridge in fourth, with all due to play this weekend. Champions Caldy’s season has already been completed.
Cambridge are away to Rams while the other two have easier looking home fixtures, Rosslyn Park host Plymouth Albion and Sale FC entertain Chinnor.
“We said at the start of the season that we were aiming for a top four finish but then about two months ago we changed that goal to a top two finish because we were doing well after a tough start with three losses on the bounce,” said Adams.
“To summarise, if we get the win next week, I would call it a successful year. It would be nice to go out with the cherry on top.”
Cambridge owe one to Rams as well, having given them a big lead at home on the opening day of the season before staging a fightback only to come up short in a 34-28 defeat.
“It was a new squad with a lot of new combinations and I think we’ve found them well and truly now so it will be nice to go and play them away and do to them what they did to us,” said Adams.
Adding to the party feel after the game last Saturday was the presentation of the trophy to Cambridge Exiles for winning the Greene King IPA Eastern Counties 1 West having earned 11 victories from their 12 games this season.
It all helped to create the atmosphere and that made a helped to spur on the team.
“Absolutely [it makes a difference],” added Adams.
“It’s fantastic. Even though it’s a wide open pitch, it can be heard. It’s absolutely wonderful, I can’t stress that enough.”