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Cambridge University RUFC positives from last-gasp defeat to Bishop's Stortford in Varsity Match build-up

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Al Gliksten touched down for Bishop's Stortford against former side Cambridge University RUFC. Picture: Keith Heppell
Al Gliksten touched down for Bishop's Stortford against former side Cambridge University RUFC. Picture: Keith Heppell

A late penalty saw Cambridge University deprived victory against Bishop’s Stortford in an entertaining match at Grange Road on Friday night.

It was the third challenge in the build-up to the Varsity Match at Welford Road on July 4, and offered the Light Blues an ideal test against a side that has already played two games with the adapted rules.

The students are preparing with the added obstacle of exam season at the university so in real time - of a pre-pandemic campaign - this stage of the build-up could be put into the context of those first few matches of a normal Michaelmas Term.

It may be rugby union but not as we know it, but there was no shortage of entertainment as it became a game contested between the two 22s. However, with no mauls and no scrums, there was no let-up in the action.

Stortford had a lot more of the ball, and therefore it was asking a lot of the university defence, and that did well to stand up to a barrage of attacks.

Finding an outlet to relieve the pressure was the problem for the Light Blues as when they got possession, they surrendered it a bit too meekly at times, either through a slightly off kicking game or just their decision-making.

It was not hindering them though – although a growing injury count was doing that – just making them have to work extra hard, which they rose to the challenge to do.

Demi Obembe caught the eye with what seemed like a metronomic tackle count, and a limpet-like approach at No 7, and many of his team-mates were not far behind.

The only try of the first half actually came from an old Blue appearing for Bishop’s Stortford.

With space opening up in front of him, scrum-half Al Gliksten spotted the gap to throw a dummy and some neat footwork to dot down under the posts, and George Cullen’s conversion made it 7-0 at half time.

Within minutes of the restart, the Light Blues lost possession in midfield, and Stortford moved play right to stretch the game and create space, and then went left to create an overlap for Alex Gilham to touch down in the corner to make it 12-0.

It did not throw the students off their game though.

They stuck to the task in hand, which was namely defending, and repelled Stortford time and again. And then their moment came.

Max Loveridge intercepted deep in his own half to race the length of the field to touch down after 71 minutes, and Alex King kicked the conversion.

Four minutes later, the Light Blues had what was a surprise lead.

King had made a burst through but managed to get the ball out of the tackle, and there was a splendid pick up by Obembe, who gathered the ball from behind him as he burst through to touch down. King landed the extras to make it 14-12.

The students were denied a try when Ikechi Mere burst through and hacked on, but was tackled without the ball which led to a yellow card.

King went for the posts from the resulting penalty, but was off target.

The action swung down the other end, and the university transgressed under the posts, giving Dan Cole the task of slotting the ball over to seal Stortford a win they deserved on the balance of play. But there was plenty there for the university to take forward into their remaining three warm-up matches before facing Oxford.

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