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Cambridge University RUFC learn valuable lessons in defeat to Steele-Bodger XV

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Alex Froud touched down a late try as the Steele-Bodger XV defeated Cambridge University 21-14 at Grange Road.

The historic fixture was returning for the first time since 2019, although it has a different role in the Light Blues calendar.

Traditionally, it was used by the students as a send-off before facing Oxford University at Twickenham, but the Varsity Match has now been moved to the spring, on Saturday, April 2, so this game now punctuates the Michaelmas Term.

It has been one of two wins and two defeats for Cambridge, and the facets of the game will all play a part in the build-up to facing the Dark Blues.

As they head into a near two-month break, one of the biggest take homes will be the need to develop the necessary patience.

The test against this year's Bodger's side felt particularly pertinent as it featured a number of old Blues who have already gone through the process and acquired the requisite skills, as well as some experienced heads.

Patience comes from putting structures and systems in place so that they become an instinct, and then trusting in them to reap the rewards.

There were multiple moments where the pass was either a bit rushed or forced when that moment of delay could have created a touch more space or an opening.

Those partnerships are still building, and a work in progress to understand when to go with a runner or for the ball player to find support.

There were a number of occasions when Suwi Chibale was able to exploit a few line breaks in the first half, although did not have team-mates react quite quick enough to go with him to get them into the 22.

It is certainly something that comes through time and in-game experience, and it is definitely early days with regards to team building after just four matches together.

It meant that there was something of a rarity as it has not been very often in recent times that the Steele-Bodger select side wins the fixture - it is the first win since 2014.

There was a flying start as North Walsham’s Will Hodgson broke through after just three minutes for the invitational team, but Tim Andrew caught him just before the posts to thwart a try.

The visitors did not take much longer to gain the lead. They went through the phases for Hodgson to break clear inside the 22, and he made no mistake this time to touch down, with Matt Hodgson landing the conversion.

Jamie Benson touches down for Cambridge University RUFC against the Steele-Bodger XV. Picture: Keith Heppell
Jamie Benson touches down for Cambridge University RUFC against the Steele-Bodger XV. Picture: Keith Heppell

It was an end-to-end game that had an air of sevens rugby about it, but there was a long delay for more points which eventually arrived for the Light Blues through Jamie Benson.

The No 10 received possession off the back of an attacking scrum and side-stepped three opponents to dot down and then convert to make it 7-7.

But a quick tap penalty just before the end of the half led to Bodgers’ captain Chris Wearmouth crashing over, and Matt Hodgson’s extras made it 14-7 to the visitors at half time.

The second half had a much more different feel to it, with the two packs slugging it out and the Bodgers really taking the challenge to the students.

It was, however, all square in the 70th minute.

The fleet of foot Andrew spotted a smidgin of space to run into, and needed no second invitation, using blistering pace to go clear on the diagonal to touch down, and Benson’s conversion made it 14-14.

However, the final say went to the Bodgers.

Archie Smeaton in action for Cambridge University RUFC against the Steele-Bodger XV. Picture: Keith Heppell
Archie Smeaton in action for Cambridge University RUFC against the Steele-Bodger XV. Picture: Keith Heppell

Froud, who was ‘on loan’ to the Bodgers from the university, was given the chance to go through on a diagonal line and took the chance, powering through a challenge to touch down, and Will Kelly’s conversion made it 21-14.

It may have been a defeat for Cambridge, but one which will form another piece of the Varsity Match jigsaw, and an important one at that.

Cambridge University RUFC: King (St Catharine's); Russell (St John's), Chibale (Queens'), Loveridge (Jesus), Andrew (Jesus); Benson (Downing), Holdroyd (Jesus); Collins (Fitzwilliam), Wright (Jesus), Pettit (Clare), Friend (St John's), Bischoff (St John's), Walton (St John's), Leonard (Emmanuel), Smeaton (Queens').

Replacements: Parry, Jackson, Harris, West, Lloyd-Williams, Obembe, Favell, Odu, McIntosh.

Steele-Bodger XV: Searle (Exeter University); Gatus (Old Haberdashers), Dussartre (RC Vincennes), Hyde (Durham University), Dowsett (Saracens Amateurs); Hodgson (North Walsham), Bell (Blackheath); Meek (Blackheath), Huppatz (Shelford), Scott (Heriots), Wearmouth (Tynedale), Lee (Worthing Raiders), Smart (Blackheath), Dass (Blackheath), Hodgson (North Walsham).

Replacements: Haigh (Tynedale), Hilton (Barnstaple), MacCullum (Blackheath), Anthony (North Walsham), Kelly (Toronto Arrows).

Scorers: 9min W Hodgson try - M Hodgson (0-7), 35 Benson try - Benson con (7-7), 39 Wearmouth try - M Hodgson con (7-14), 70 Andrew try - Benson con (14-14), 74 Froud try - Kelly con (14-21).

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