Cambridge University RUFC suffer defeat to Bishop’s Stortford Blues
The first match of any new term for Cambridge University RUFC can always be a bit of a lottery.
With limited training time together, you are never quite sure whether they will come out of the traps flying or take a little while to get going.
In a Lent Term which features a new date in the calendar for the Varsity Match, a clash against the Bishop's Stortford Blues offered an intriguing start to a seven-game spell that will end against Oxford University at Twickenham on Saturday, April 2.
It was a true test for the Light Blues and set down a foundation for which to build in the next nine weeks, but it was the National League One side that earned a deserved 14-5 win.
You could tell that there was a bit of rustiness in the students, with term only officially starting last week, as some parts of their game could not get firing and that was allied to a good display from a youthful Stortford side that also featured a sprinkling of older heads.
The university made the perfect start, with Zac Bischoff going over in the corner with the game only four minutes old. The problem was that it was the only time they troubled the scoreboard all game.
It was not for a lack of trying as they had more of the ball for large spells of the first half, it was just that the Stortford defence was very good and entries into the 22 were few and far between, and definitely not of any real substance.
As the Light Blues were battered back across the line, they were not able to add much width to their play, and could not get enough good quality ball to utilise a kicking game.
The scrum was functioning well and earning valuable yards, but the line-out just struggled to get going properly.
Stortford had a spell conceding numerous penalties but after they overcame those issues, the tide turned. It was the students that were forced to defend as they gave away a series of penalties as either frustration or a lack of playing time together - their last game was in November against the Steele-Bodger XV - was taking its toll, more so with clarity of thought than physically.
This was putting them deeper and deeper on the back foot, and that led to Stortford taking the lead before the break.
A cross-field kick bounced in front of the posts and Austin Pope seized on the ball to touch down, and Tom Walker converted to make it 7-5.
The second-half led to a raft of changes as the process of shaping a side to take on the Dark Blues steps up in intensity.
Cambridge were not helped in their efforts to get back in front by a yellow card for Charlie Friend in the 51st minute as it became a contest battled out in the middle third of the pitch.
The cavalry, including former England fly-half Toby Flood, who is studying for an MBA, and current Scotland under-20 international Archie Smeaton, were primed and ready to arrive, only for the task to be made that bit harder before they could enter the fray.
Good play saw Tom Lewis take the ball in one of very few line breaks all game, and he galloped clear to score underneath the posts, with Walker's conversion giving Stortford a 14-5 lead.
It was an advantage the visitors were never to surrender.
The closest the Light Blues came to getting on the scoreboard again was a free-flowing, swift passing move to put in Tim Andrew on the left wing, but the final pass was deemed to have been forward.
Stortford were well deserving of the win, and the match will surely be looked upon as extremely fruitful for the university.
It may not have been a victory, but it will have given them plenty of food for thought and a base on which to build and go forward.
Cambridge University: King; Russell, Chibale, Loveridge, Andrew; Benson, Holdroyd, Collins, Wright, Pettitt, Friend, Bischoff, Walton, Obembe, Leonard.
Replacements: Parry, Jackson, Peters, West, Montesino Jones, Smeaton, Favell, Odu, Flood.
Bishop's Stortford: Walker; Radley, Rayment, Pope, Tutt; Orchard, Banks; Robinson, King, Bridges, Charter, McGurk, Campbell, Smith, Lewis.
Replacements: Davidson, Matthews, Tremlett, Lane, Cox, Coleman, Rokomoce.
Scoring: 4min Bischoff try (5-0), 40+4 Pope try - Walker con (5-7), 55 Lewis try - Walker con (5-14).