Cambridge suffer opening home defeat to Loughborough Students
Second-half try does the damage
Cambridge’s hopes of turning Volac Park into a fortress this season suffered an early setback as they were beaten 14-9 at home by Loughborough Students in National League One.
It was almost the textbook raid in the first home game of the campaign as the Students grabbed the decisive try from one of very few meaningful forays into the hosts’ half in the second period.
And there will no doubt be plenty of frustrations for Cambridge as they had enough possession and territory to have opened their home account with a win.
The fact that they did not is down to a number of factors though.
Loughborough were solid in defence. They knew when to get numbers in to the breakdown, and when to spread out along the line.
It meant that while Cambridge were enjoying sustained spells in the Loughborough 22, you were always left with the impression that it needed something special to finally cross the line.
On this occasion, that magic spark was missing as they either tried to go through the phases and were thwarted or eventually ran out of pitch.
Another factor was that Loughborough are such a fit and energetic side.
They never stop going, and while this is usually one of the hallmarks for Cambridge that shines so bright towards the end of games, in many senses, they met their own match.
But Cambridge will be left ruing some of their own execution at times. Twice – at different points in the game – they had five-metre line-outs, and they contrived to make a hash of it and lose a promising position.
One of the reasons that must be so frustrating for Cambridge is that at nearly all other points, their line-out was one of their strengths.
Central to that are the returning Rob Conquest and George Bretag-Norris in the second row, who look as if they will be a dominant combination in the pack, with their workrate in the tight and the loose a huge asset.
And scrum-half Pierre Peres also caught the eye.
He was all action and constantly around the fringes looking to get quick ball to put the team on the front foot, and that must have been difficult in a first half that saw heavy rain make handling difficult.
Getting the ball under control was one of the biggest problems, and this no doubt disrupted the flow of the game.
So as it was, Loughborough went into a 6-0 lead thanks to penalties from Owen Waters.
The Students then had Jack Moates sin-binned on the stroke of half time, and Jack Green landed the resulting penalty to reduce the arrears for Cambridge.
The hosts’ fly-half then landed another penalty to bring the scores level.
Waters booted the ball through the sticks to edge Loughborough back in front after 49 minutes, but on 58, a third kick from Green made it 9-9.
The winning try came in the 64th minute when Loughborough had been given an opportunity to create some space on their left wing, and Oscar Hirskyj-Douglas had the chance to stroll in relatively unopposed for a try.
It was one of very few ventures deep into Cambridge territory for Loughborough in the second half, but in a competitive match with little to choose between the teams, it was all that was required to secure the win.
Cambridge: M Ayrton; Hema, Petrides, Penfold, Portsmouth; Green, Peres; Ibrahim, Davies, Moynihan, Bretag-Norris, Conquest, McCloud, Rawlings, Fox.
Replacements: Griffiths (Davies, 50), Elvers (Petrides, 52), Peck (Moynihan, 68), Kellard (Fox, 68), Green (Penfold, 72), Penfold (Hema, 80+1).
Loughborough Students: Ffitch; Bitirim, Dockery, Stapley, Hirskyj-Douglas; Waters, Winter-Moates; Leat, Adams, Davis, Frost, Vukasinovic, Nuttall, Boyce, Kingham.
Replacements: Glashan (Bitirim, 40), Hughes (Ffitch, 50), Hudson (Kingham, 57), Lynch (Adams, 67), Kingham (Nuttall 73).
Sin bin: Loughborough Students – Winter-Moates (technical offence, 40+2).
Scorers: 8min Waters pen (0-3), 18 Waters pen (0-6), 40+2 Green pen (3-6), 44 Green pen (6-6), 49 Waters pen (6-9), 58 Green pen (9-9), 64 Hirskyj-Douglas try (9-14).
Referee: Tom Davies