Cambridge University victory hopes grounded by late RAF try
Jake Hennessey stars for Light Blues in draw
A late try denied Cambridge University victory over the RAF in an entertaining 21-21 draw at Grange Road.
As is often the case in the Lent Term, there were more changes for the Light Blues and in this instance it was first starts in the backs for Dan Blick and Elliott Baines.
But the relative rawness of the back-line was offset by the centre duo of Archie Russell and Jake Hennessey, and there was plenty of firepower in the forwards, with the return of Andrew Hunter in particular.
That tough edge was there to see from the start against an RAF side gearing up for the Tri-Services competition – the first target being the inaugural BT Cup against the Royal Navy at Twickenham Stoop on April 20.
The extra bite was prevalent early on, nothing too serious but it got the blood pumping and showed the Forces side that although young in experience, the students were determined to give as good as they got.
And if there were any doubts, then it was there for all to see at the scrum.
It may have been easy to expect the RAF to have the upper hand at the set-piece, but they did not have things their own way, and there were more solid performances in the front row from Charlie MacCallum, Andrew Burnett and Sam Troughton.
In fact, it was only after the changes from both sides in the second half that the RAF finally got the advantage – and that was what eventually led to their equalising try.
However, the real star of the show for the university was Hennessey.
On a night where the ball seldom seemed to stick in the hands for either side, leading to it being a bit stop-start for long periods, you could almost depend on the Light Blues’ No 12 to break the gain line.
Hennessey was constantly putting his team on the front foot, when everyone else seemed to be working over time to make hard yards.
It was the centre that scampered clear from halfway in the 75th minute to score beneath the posts, and convert his own try, and that seemed like it may have won the game for the university.
But scrum power from the RAF led to L/CPL Dan Johnson dotting down for his second try, converted by Andy Byrne, to level matters with minutes left to play.
It was a bookending of the match for the Services’ team, as they had opened the scoring in the 15th minute. A tap penalty led to pressure on the hosts’ line for FLT LT Stu Philpott to finally cross, and Byrne added the conversion.
While there may have been handling errors for the university, no-one could fault their defence. It has been a running theme throughout the season, and bodies were again put on the line to repel the efforts of the RAF.
That hard work from both a defensive perspective and a scrummaging performance was rewarded with a penalty try to the Light Blues before half time, which was awarded for a third offence at the set piece.
The RAF made an almost instant impact in the second half, with a catch and drive from a line-out leading to Johnson getting the try, which Byrne converted.
But a long, mazy run from Hennessey in the 67th minute was stopped inside the 22, however, not before he had got the ball away to Tyler Hammond to touch down, with the centre adding the conversion.
When the Light Blues went ahead with time running out, there was hope they could hang on for a second win of the term.
However, the RAF’s late try deprived them of the victory, but it was probably a fair result overall; in what was an encouraging performance from the Light Blues, and their draw of the season.
Cambridge University: Blick; Hattea, Russell, Hennessey, Baines; Perks, Bell; MacCallum, Burnett, Troughton, Hunter, Eriksen, Leonard, Hammond, Richardson.
Replacements: Huppatz, Schusman, Kolakowski, Kilpatrick, Elms, Triniman, Craib, Story.
RAF: Sgt A Bryne; SAC M Robinson, SAC S Webber, Cpl M Clarke, SAC J Tupua; Cpl L Riddell, Cpl J Parkin; SAC M Harris, Flt Lt S Philpott, Cpl N Kibble, Sgt M Brougham, SAC S Hutchinson, Cpl D Ellis, Flt Lt R Bell, SAC D Johnson.
Replacements: SAC C Hales, SAC H Challenor, Cpl S Morris, SAC W Cooper, SAC L Hadley, SAC S Breeze, SAC R MacDougall, SAC M Harper, SAC N Arnell.
Referee: Daniel Rowlands.
Scorers: 15 Philpott try – Byrne con (0-7), 40 penalty try (7-7), 45 Johnson try – Byrne con (7-14), 67 Hammond try – Hennessey con (14-14), 75 Henneseey try – Hennessey con (21-14), 80+1 Johnson try – Byrne con (21-21).