Cambridge suffer narrow defeat to Chinnor
Volac Park plays host to entertaining National League One game
Two-point defeats can often produce ‘what if’ or ‘what might have been’ moments.
While there may be elements of those in Cambridge’s 22-20 reversal to Chinnor at Volac Park in National League One, they are only minor.
It was a game which the Oxfordshire side deserved to win, and at the same time, one in which the hosts will have learnt so much about themselves – and largely in a positive context.
Chinnor had won their opening two games of the season, their first in National League One since promotion last season, and it is easy to see why.
They had confidence in their systems, stuck to the tried and tested, and had a number of ‘matchwinners’.
An example of that confidence was early in the game when – trailing to a third-minute penalty – they won a succession of four penalties in the Cambridge 22.
There was no question of going for the posts though, on each occasion they went to touch to try to set up a drive for the line – clearly backing their own catch-and-drive technique.
It worked in helping earn Cambridge’s Ean Griffiths a yellow card in his defence of the line, it did not reap the required points though, but that was in large part down to the defence of Cambridge – which is a big plus point for them to take forward.
For spells in the first half, but more importantly long periods in the second, Cambridge withstood constant pressure in their own 22.
After conceding that early glut of penalties, the Cambridge defence was clean and tidy throughout – a stubborn rearguard that looked difficult to breach.
On four separate occasions after the break their discipline and efforts were rewarded by drawing a penalty from the visitors’ over eagerness in the 22.
It may beg questions as to how they conceded four tries, but these were well-worked by Chinnor rather than any collective malaise.
Directed by scrum-half Dave Brazier, Chinnor had a zip and zeal about their play, finding the space around the fringes of the breakdown to attack, and then when necessary stretching the pitch to go wide.
It brought in the back three of Kieran Goss, Reon Joseph and Craig Holland, and they were difficult to stop.
It was through a breakaway from halfway that Joseph raced clear to get their first try, in the 14th minute, and Bertie Hopkin converted for 7-3.
Cambridge replied though, when they moved possession to wide man Kwaku Asiedu to race away and score.
Not long after, hunting as a pack worked well for Cambridge as they forced the error from Chinnor, who dropped the ball over the try-line and Ziana Alexis was quickest to react to pounce for a try, with Penfold’s conversion making it 15-7.
Four minutes later, Cambridge extended their lead. Quick hands along the backline moved the ball to Asiedu, who raced in to score.
It was a show of how destructive and potent Cambridge can be when they attack with pace and movement, and is a great sign for the rest of the season.
However, in this match at least, they had met their match.
A catch and drive from a line-out saw Dan George ground the ball for 20-12, and the lead was reduced to 20-17 by half time as Goss evaded a tackle to pass to Holland, and his terrific pass from the back of the hands set up Joseph to race away for his second try.
The only score of the second half was from Rob Bell for Chinnor after some sustained pressure after 45 minutes.
It then turned into attack versus defence, as Cambridge battled in their own 22 for long periods.
They never looked like wilting, standing strong against wave-after-wave of attack as Chinnor kept patient and went through the phases, only to eventually be turned over through their own eagerness and penalty infringements.
It is here that Cambridge will want to learn lessons though.
When they got out of their own territory, they did not look after possession quite well enough to force Chinnor onto the backfoot.
Rather than take the positives from what they had done in defence and try to turn that into attack, they were a little bit hasty in trying to add width to their play.
You just wanted to see them tighten up and go through the phases in the hope of winning a penalty that would be in range for the kickers – especially given the two-point difference - rather than add that expanse to their game and go wide.
However, that will come with time as the young side learns how to blend the two styles and approaches.
As far as defeats go though, this should be filed in the ‘positive’ folder – if it is ever possible to do that after being beaten.
Cambridge: Rayner; Asiedu, Yawayawa, J Ayrton, M Ayrton; Penfold, Duffin; Peck, Griffiths, Alexis, Conquest, Baxter, Bennoy, McCloud, Hipwell.
Replacements: Rayment (McCloud, 11-19; Griffths, 60), Green (Penfold, 34-40), Meek (Alexis, 52), Britton (Conquest, 57), Creighton (Duffin, 64), Green (Asiedu, 68), Alexis (Peck, 75).
Chinnor: Goss; Joseph, A Dancer, Barnes, Holland; Hopkin, Brazier; Bingham, George, Gilding, Thomas, Ramshaw, J Dancer, Bell, Burns.
Replacements: Betts (Bingham, 44), Manning (Bell, 57), Barton (Brazier, 61), Ranaboldo (Thomas, 68), Bingham (Gilding, 70).
Referee: Stephen Copeman
Sin bin: Cambridge – Griffiths (technical offence, 9).
Scorers: 3min Penfold pen (3-0), 14 Joseph try – Hopkin con (3-7), 20 Asiedu try (8-7), 27 Alexis try – Penfold con (15-7), Asiedu try (20-7), 36 George try (20-12), 40+1 Joseph try (20-17), 45 Bell try (20-22).