Frustration for Cambridge after home defeat to Rotherham in National League One
Cambridge will be looking nervously over their shoulders after being beaten 24-20 by Rotherham in National League One.
To say they have been frustrating this season is an understatement, with moments of brilliance countered by moments of exasperation to leave them in the lower reaches of the table.
The defeat against the Titans falls into the second category, not through any slight on the visitors but by the fact that an attack that has struggled to fire at times this campaign grabbed three good tries inside 20 first-half minutes.
Yet, with only a fourth bonus point for scoring four tries in a match in sight, they almost turned into a different team and were unable to add to their tally.
It had all looked so promising as there was a real cut and thrust to the hosts’ game as it appeared that they had identified an avenue to exploit Rotherham and went for the kill.
Darren Fox led from the front with a barnstorming charge in the third minute and when he was stopped just shy of the line, Joe Green kicked on to win the race and touch down.
Rotherham showed their power at the scrum, which was dominant throughout the game, as they earned three penalties in quick succession at the set piece, and referee Richard Haughton finally lost patience with Cambridge, awarding the Titans a penalty try to tie the game at 7-7.
Fox and Alex Rayment then drove Cambridge forward again, and got possession to Ben Penfold whose superb delicate kick through a gap was raced on to by Mike Ayrton to score to make it 12-7.
Four minutes later, a good line-out steal by George Bretag-Norris saw play reach Penfold, whose pop pass set up debutant Ned Brown to put in Louis Rawlings to race clear and score in the corner.
Cambridge were making their attack look so effortless, forcing Rotherham onto the backfoot and it felt like only a matter of time before they got more points.
However, in the closing stages of the half they appeared to retreat into their shell and that brought the visitors onto them.
A rampant scrum was giving them valuable yards and, just before half time, they drove Cambridge backwards in the hosts’ 22.
Having set up the play, Connor Dever spread possession left where an overlap had been created for Henry Roberts to touch down, making it 17-12 at half time.
Rotherham upped the ante at the start of the second half, and they were afforded possession a bit too easily by the hosts.
It finally told when a catch and drive from a line-out led to Jack Bergmanas touching down to make it 17-17.
Cambridge responded through a penalty in front of the posts by Penfold, making it 20-17.
It then heaped the territorial pressure back on the hosts though, and they struggled to clear their lines.
When play was turned over to Rotherham, it did feel as if more points for the visitors were inevitable.
Gareth Baxter was shown a yellow card for Cambridge and, from the resulting penalty, Rotherham took a 5m scrum and were awarded another penalty try, following another infringement, to take a 24-20 lead.
Cambridge rallied but it was too little, too late - in the context of the way they started the game - as some brilliant defence from the visitors repelled wave after wave and multiple phases, forcing the hosts further back into their own half.
From a position that looked so promising after 23 minutes, a losing bonus point may be scant reward, but it will be one that Cambridge will gleefully take as, given results elsewhere, they are now only one point outside the relegation places.
Cambridge: M Ayrton; Asiedu, Brown, J Ayrton, Green; Penfold, Duffin; Rukhadze, Rayment, Higgings, Bretag-Norris, Baxter, Fox, Rawlings, Moore.
Replacements: Peck (Rukhadze, 12), Yawayawa (J Ayrton, 26-36; 41), McCloud (Moore, 47), Ruddock (Rayment, 54), Moore (Rawlings, 71), Rayner (Brown, 80).
Rotherham: Leake; Roberts, Cooke, Dunne, Field; Irvine, Dever; Richardson, Bergmanas, Dennis, Preston-Routledge, Ure, Ball, Poole, Nagle-Taylor.
Replacements: Stout (Dennis, 20), Cotterill (Ball, 47), Frost (Ure, 47), Thomson (Bergmanas, 63), Dennis (Stout, 69).
Referee: Richard Haughton.
Sin bin: Baxter (technical offence, 71).
Scorers: 3min Green try - Penfold con (7-0), 13 penalty try (7-7), 19 M Ayrton try (12-7), 23 Rawlings try (17-7), 40+4 Roberts try (17-12), 54 Bergmanas try (17-17), 64 Penfold pen (20-17), 72 penalty try (20-24).