Dan Rutter’s late penalty sees Cambridge University fall to defeat to the Royal Navy
A late penalty sent Cambridge University to a 27-24 defeat to the Royal Navy in an engrossing and entertaining match at Grange Road.
In the trilogy of matches so far this Lent Term for the Light Blues this was the ideal contest as it brought together the lessons learned in defeat to Bishop’s Stortford and the elements that flowed with ease in the comprehensive win over Cambridge Wanderers.
The Royal Navy are in the early stages of their build-up to the 2022 Inter-Services Championship, which sees them face the RAF and the Army, and this game was the best test possible for both teams.
Dan Rutter landed a technically superb penalty from close to halfway to seal the win, but while the students may have wanted to have been on the other side of the result, there were a huge amount of positives for them to take.
There was a real intensity and urgency about the way they started the game, and it is difficult to remember the last time they started with such vigour against an Armed Services side to put them on the back foot from the off.
The university were quick and clean at the breakdown in that opening period, and it may have caught the Royal Navy off guard.
The scrum was under pressure, as you would expect, but at the same time holding its own, with Stephen Leonard doing some excellent work at No 8 to make sure they were not driven back.
Leonard also caught the eye throughout the game at the breakdown, and his efforts were matched by many of those alongside him in the tight eight.
The captain on the night had rolled past a tackle to race over the line for the opening try in the 11th minute, and it was one of those that equally excelled in the back row, Tom Walton, who got the second try after 16 minutes, receiving a quick tap penalty to touch down.
Alex King’s conversion had made it 12-0, but injuries disrupted Cambridge’s flow somewhat and the Royal Navy began to establish a foothold in the game as both teams made light of the gale howling down the Grange Road pitch.
It was a length of the field break that saw the visitors register their first points in the 33rd minute.
POAET Ben Chambers led the breakout from his own 22, and Cpl Ratu Vakalutukali carried on deep into Cambridge territory before finding Chambers on his shoulder and drawing the last man to find the winger, who juggled the pass before sealing it to race clear to touch down.
A catch and drive at the line-out - where the visitors excelled all game - in the final play of the half led to LPT Ben Priddey touching down for the Royal Navy, and AET Jordan Gott converted to make it 12-12 at the break.
The powerful driving maul from the Royal Navy was at play again in the 47th minute, and it was Priddey who emerged once more with the ball for a second try after they drove over the line.
It may sound like a game dominated by the forwards, but there were ample opportunities for both sets of backs to stretch their legs.
Suwi Chibale has been an impressive force in the Cambridge centres throughout the academic year, and this game was no different.
It was a great break by the No 13 that led to the Light Blues’ next points as although he was tackled just short of the line, possession was recycled left for Dougal Russell to touch down in the corner.
The students regained the lead in the 66th minute. Replacement hooker Luke Parry led the charge, handing off an opponent in his own half only to be tackled narrowly shy of the line. But the field position had been gained, and a quick tap penalty saw Walton get his second try, with King’s conversion making it 24-19.
Four minutes later, a driving maul was set up by the Royal Navy and that gave replacement scrum-half MNE Alex Petersen the chance to snipe off the back, breaking past two tackles to touch down to make it 24-24.
While there was lots for both coaching teams to take from the performances of their sides, there will probably be an element of frustration about the high penalty counts and it will no doubt be an area that will be addressed going forward.
With the wind in their favour, it was through one such transgression that the Royal Navy ultimately won the game.
A penalty was awarded against the university in the 80th minute, and Rutter knew that anything remotely high would be in the hands of the elements, so he cleverly struck it low and it had just enough to get over the bar.
A draw would have been a fair result, but the university should be pleased with their efforts as the incremental improvements on the way to facing Oxford at Twickenham on April 2 keep building.
Cambridge University: King; Russell, Chibale, Odu, Andrew; Flood, Favell; Jackson, Wright, Pettit, Friend, Bischoff, Walton, Froud, Leonard.
Replacements: Parry, Peters, Marwood, Kururangi, Obembe, Montesino Jones, Holdroyd, Wylie, Benson.
Royal Navy: MNE Craig Duncan; AB(LOGS) Kiniviliame Dakuiliga, Lt Rory O’Brien RM, LCpl Kai Baker, POAET Ben Chambers; AET Jordan Gott, LAET Sam Carter; LET(ME) Richie Ives, LPT Ben Priddey, AET Chris Warner, AB(D) Gav Hughan, MNE Josh Williams, MNE Toby Papp, Cpl Ratu Vakalutukali, Lt Jarrard Hayler RM.
Replacements: Lt Louis Frankland RN, LS(EW) Tim Lindsay, LA(AH) Ben Watson, PO(SET) Ashley Wakefield, AB Dan Macadams, MNE Joe Richards, Lt Mitchell Spencer RN, MNE Rory Mitchell, MNE Alex Petersen, AET Dan Rutter, MNE Kane Teear-Bourge, AET Sean Mackervail, AB(CS) Ben Raivalitia, MNE Remi Norville, AET Jerome Rudder.
Scorers: 11min Leonard try (5-0), 16 Walton try - King con (12-0), 33 Chambers try (12-5), 40+7 Priddey try - Gott con (12-12), 47 Priddey try - Gott con (12-19), 58 Russell try (17-19), 66 Walton try - King con (24-19), 70 Peterson try (24-24), 80 Rutter pen (24-27).