Cambridge University RUFC seal Town v Gown victory over Cambridge Rugby Club
Feisty, tough defence and a late rally, if you were to produce a supporters’ tick-list of wants from a Town v Gown clash then the three may all figure prominently.
When Cambridge University take on Cambridge in the annual fixture, it does not tend to be one for the faint-hearted, and it certainly did not disappoint again at Grange Road.
In fact, it is probably fair to say that the 2019 renewal had a bit more fire and spice to it than normal - with a total of four yellow cards keeping referee Jake Hill on his toes.
The key outcome is of course the result, and that was a 20-19 win for the students, with the foundation for their success provided in the first half.
For the town club, though, there will be plenty of encouragement as their Wanderers side produced a late rally, with two converted tries in the last eight minutes.
The fixture fell on the first day of the Michaelmas Term for the Light Blues, but, just as in their defeats to Loughborough and Durham Universities, there was still a lot of rotation in what was seen as a pre-season game before they start to select a more settled squad.
However, there was a first with the inclusions of former internationals Flip van der Merwe and James Horwill, with the former starting and the latter coming off the bench.
The most impressive thing about the performance for the hosts was their defence, which helped them grow into the game and establish a lead they were never to let slide.
They got in the face of Cambridge, taking an approach of sending two players into each tackle and this was in turn putting the visitors on the back foot.
The ferocity in the tackle led to the opening try as ex-South Africa star van der Merwe broke from around halfway and then off-loaded to the ever-impressive Chris Bell to race through and touch down.
The fly-half then converted his own try before landing a penalty to make it 10-0 after 18 minutes.
Cambridge’s scrum was impressive and while their attack was failing to fire in the first half, the set piece was making sure that they were able to wield some possession and territory.
The problem that they had though was trying to navigate a way through the students’ defence, and despite the first yellow card for Charlie MacCallum, shown to the hosts’ prop in the 32nd minute, the way the Light Blues coped did not seem to put them at a disadvantage.
Any doubt about the meaning of the game could be dispelled in the 39th minute when a big coming together of most players from both sides resulted in yellow cards for the university’s Rowan Beckett and Cambridge’s Matt Meek.
However, despite being down to 13, the resulting penalty was kicked to touch by the Light Blues and they set up a catch and drive from the line-out which ended with Miles Huppatz touching down. Bell added the extras to make it 17-0.
Only 10 minutes into the second half, and the students were again back down to being a man light, with Tom Walton this time sent to the sin-bin.
The scrum which had functioned so well for Cambridge all evening brought its rewards four minutes later, with Fred Betteridge picking up from the base to touch down.
Bell kicked a penalty to give the hosts some breathing space at 20-5 as Cambridge began to mount a comeback after multiple replacements from both teams.
Cambridge were finding more joy in stretching the play to get their back three into the game, something they had struggled to do until the closing stages.
George Laing’s attempted clearance kick in his own 22 was charged down by Lawrence Rayner, and the fly-half carried on the chase to touch down. He then drop kicked the conversion to make it 20-12.
The penalties mounted against the university in the final minutes and, following a scrum, Josh Lewanituva’s powerful run was stopped just short of the line, but after about four phases, Ramaz Rukhadze touched down.
Rayner’s conversion to make it 20-19 was the final action of the game as the university secured victory, but it was a match in which both sides should be able to take plenty to help shape their seasons.
Cambridge University: Gatus; Jemphrey, Russell, Mackle, Story; Bell, Gliksten; MacCallum, Huppatz, Miller, van der Merwe, Beckett, Walton, McMahon, Leonard.
Replacements: Schusman, Harbone, Horwill, Hargreaves, Smeaton, Laing, Mullaney, Elms, Lovelace.
Cambridge: Patrick; Phoenix, Lewanituva, Simonds, Bean; Rayner, Duffin; Meek, Priestley, Copeland, Hill, Clarke, Dickinson, Dawson, Betteridge.
Replacements: Rukhadze, Rayment, Napier, Marshall, Venni, Traynor, Chivanyge.
Referee: Jake Hill.
Scorers: 9min Bell try - Bell con (7-0), 18 Bell pen (10-0), 40 Huppatz try - Bell con (17-0), 54 Betteridge try (17-5), 65 Bell pen (20-5), 76 Rayner try - Rayner con (20-12).
Sin bin: Cambridge University - MacCallum (technical offence, 18), Beckett (foul play, 39), Walton (technical offence, 50); Cambridge - Meek (foul play, 39).