Cambridge University show poise and purpose in Northampton Saints defeat
Blues earn late rewards
Look at the score and you will form one opinion of Cambridge University’s defeat to Northampton Saints.
But those present at Grange Road will be able to provide another, countering many of the assumptions that may be put forward by seeing a 61-7 defeat.
Northampton Saints had a side packed with first-team experience, and after the Light Blues’ defeat to Trinity College Dublin in their previous match, it was understandable if they approached the game with trepidation.
However, if that was how they felt then they certainly did not show it as they made a match of it for their visitors.
They held their own at the scrum against an experienced front row of Campese Ma’afu, Charlie Clare and Gareth Denman, who were backed up by Alex Moon and Christian Day in the second row.
And the same was true at the line-out, with possession looked after rather than being given way easily.
With a pack as strong as the Saints you would expect them to be dominant on their own put in, and a catch and drive led to try number three from Clare, while Devante Onojaife dotted down the fifth after a scrum powered over the line.
Yet in the run of the game, the students contested impressively in both the loose and at the breakdown.
They were intelligent in their defensive set up, making sure that they did not get isolated too often with one-on-ones, therefore putting the onus on the Saints to break them down.
The quick hands from the visitors meant that they could do just that, but it was only a glut of three tries in the last six minutes when the score raced away from the university.
Otherwise, it was tries at 10-minute intervals, with the first coming through Tom Kessell spotting a gap to burst through to touch down.
The second was somewhat fortunate as Charlie Amesbury had led a breakout for the students, but when they spilled possession, Ahsee Tuala hacked on twice to dive over for the try.
And Tom Collins’ twinkle toes brought about the fourth try as he danced his way to the line.
A through-the-legs pass sent Collins clear to set up Juan Pablo Estelles for the sixth try to make it 42-0.
Breakaway scores from James Grayson (two) and Tom Emery racked up the Saints’ total, but it is possible that the defining moment of the university’s campaign arrived in the last minute.
They were camped in the Saints’ 22, with the visitors intent on not conceding, but the Light Blues showed a composure and patience that they had not previously exhibited in the Michaelmas Term.
They went through many phases hitting the line, and it was fresher scrum-half Chris Bell who finally made the dive for the line, to cue big celebrations for the students.
It was a try, converted by Fraser Gillies, that their performance certainly deserved, and if they can take that forward into their next four matches then it will stand them in good stead.
Cambridge University: Amesbury; Davies, Triniman, Phillips, King; Gillies, Tullie; Briggs, Dillon Kelly, Dixon, Bond, Hunter, Bartholomew, Stanley, Dass.
Replacements: Hugkulstone, Dean, Moros, Lola Erogbogbo, Lockhart, Bell, Lare Erogbogbo, Clough, Griffiths.
Northampton Saints: Tuala; Packman, Tuitavake, Estelles, Collins; Olver, Kessell; Ma’afu, Clare, Denman, Moon, Day, J Onojaife, Ludlam, D Onojaife.
Replacements: Rayment, Painter, Trinder, Bennett, Mitchell, Grayson, Elliott, Furbank.
Referee: Ryan Smith.
Scorers: 10 Kessell try – Olver con (0-7), 21 Tuala try – Olver con (0-14), 30 Clare try – Olver con (0-21), 40+1 Collins try – Olver con (0-28), 49 D Onojaife try – Olver con (0-35), 55 Pablo Estelles try - Olver con (0-42), 74 Grayson try (0-47), 75 Emery try – Grayson con (0-54), 79 Grayson try – Grayson con (0-61), 80+5 Bell try – Gillies con (7-61).