Cambridge University suffer last-minute defeat to Loughborough University
Promising display from the Light Blues
Season-opening performances at Cambridge University often end up being cast far back into the recesses of the mind by the time of the Varsity Match at Twickenham in December.
They are displays that often reflect not only the rugby but the stage of the Michaelmas Term, not quite fully up and running in the middle of September.
And that is why the clash with Loughborough University – although an eventual 29-27 defeat - could linger long in the memory as it is difficult to remember the last time the Light Blues were so cohesive in their first game.
It is far too earlier to get carried away, but frequent observers of the university will know that this game was different from the norm.
The movement and creativity showed an understanding that perhaps grew from a warm-weather training camp in South Africa, but was still surprising to see in the first game.
The highlight was a brilliant combination on 30 minutes between Jake Hennessey, Chris Bell and Henry King with deft hands and speed of thought putting the winger away.
When King was tackled just short of the line, possession was then recycled for hooker Andy Burnett to eventually dot down over the line.
Cambridge were also creating space around the corner of the Loughborough defence, stretching their play and that led to their two tries in the second half, from Hennessey and Archie Russell.
It was not just in possession that there were encouraging signs though.
Having ramped up the pressure in the closing stages, Loughborough were just five points behind, and it really was a rearguard action from the Light Blues.
And that led to a fantastic turnover on his own line from Tyler Hammond – a piece of play that was so good as you just wondered how he had managed to smuggle it out of the grasp of his opposite number.
Loughborough’s Ollie Kilgallon was a speed merchant, and there was always the impression that with a clear run, he would get the ball down.
His moment seemed to arrive in the fifth minute of stoppage time, but arriving from nowhere was Ed Loftus to bundle him into touch.
However, the referee was playing a penalty advantage at the point, and a number of phases after the resulting set piece led to Ben Pointon touching down, and Tom Ffitch’s conversion won the match for Loughborough as the last action of the game.
And it was perhaps significant that the winning points stemmed from a penalty as the Light Blues did transgress too many times in the second half.
It was giving Loughborough some easy yards, and heaping the pressure on the Cambridge defence.
The other area that head coach James Shanahan will no doubt seek to address is that Loughborough got two of their first-half tries through intercept passes on halfway.
So while the creativity was there in abundance, he will probably look to rein in the risky passes. And taking 14 points off the scoreboard leads to a very different outcome.
But if anything can be read into season openers, then there good be some good games ahead at Grange Road this term.
Cambridge University: Amesbury; Loftus, Russell, Hennessey, King; Phillips, Bell; Briggs, Burnett, Dixon, Beckett, Eriksen, Watson, Leonard, Richardson.
Replacements: Dean, Huppatz, Somers, Troughton, Hammond, Tullie, Triniman, Griffiths, Craib.
Loughborough University: Bitirim; Foster, Koster, Carolan, Antoniou; Travers, Dobinson; Brownhill, Lynch, Dimen, Hunter, Wheadon, Yusuff, Hill, Hutchinson.
Replacements: King, Leat, Grahamslaw, Macpherson, Kilgallon, Pointon, Ffitch, Fadahu, Lewis, Davies, Stapley.
Scorers: 3min Antoniou try – Travers con (0-7), 7 Phillips pen (3-7), 19 Carolan try – Travers con (3-14), 30 Burnett try – Phillips con (10-14), 39 Loftus try (15-14), 40+2 Antoniou try (15-19), 41 Hennessey try (20-19), 61 Russell try – Phillips con (27-19), 73 Ffitch pen (27-22), 80+7 Pointon try – Ffitch con (27-29).
Sin bin: Cambridge University – Leonard (professional foul, 55); Loughborough University – Hunter (professional foul, 6).
Referee: Rob Teare.