Future shows promise for Cambridge despite defeat to Coventry
Both sides offer glimpses to next season
Putting down the markers for what constitutes a good game of rugby can vary on the individual.
With modern-day sport heading down the route of soundbite packages – take rugby sevens or Twenty20 cricket – it is easy to imagine that for the easily-distracted, tries are the sole demand.
With Coventry beating Cambridge 36-27 in National League One at Volac Park, it would suggest that the blink-and-you-miss-it type of spectator would have been easily satisfied.
But if you are able to put the 11 tries aside for a minute, then this match was about far more than the number of touch downs.
It was full bloodied. It was highly charged. It was full-on. It was competitive. It was two sides going toe-to-toe with each other.
The breakdowns were a battle area, the defence was carried out with huge intensity, there was no quarter given or spared at the set piece.
It was the type of performance that shows Cambridge what they can become – if they cut out the tries that they have so often offered up to the opposition and did again against Coventry.
Looking into the future was possibly the theme of the game, as Coventry seek the momentum from an experienced squad that will carry them into next season when they will be looking to be pushing the top two places.
And if you take Cambridge, then perhaps young prop Ben Ibrahim symbolises what they are looking to build.
Having made the leap from the Midlands divisions to National League One this season, in only his second start he looked more than comfortable against a vastly-experienced Coventry front row.
Nothing seemed to faze him as at loose-head prop and alongside tight-head prop David Langley, with hooker Ean Griffiths providing the experience, they gave Cambridge a solid and stable platform.
His performance was also capped by a swallow-dive try to open the hosts’ scoring.
And in the bigger picture, Ibrahim’s selection indicates what Cambridge are trying to create – a young and hungry squad that have guiding heads around them to provide leadership and experience.
While gnarly, grizzled players may know how to play out a game from a winning position, as Coventry showed, the younger lights never give up – and with a bit better execution, Cambridge may have grabbed a losing bonus point.
As it was though, they had to just settle for a try bonus point as Coventry proved to have a bit too much for Cambridge.
Tries from Tom Howe and Max Trimble, one of which was converted by Will Maisey, saw Coventry go 12-5 ahead, but Ibrahim then pulled a try back.
However, an intercept on halfway from Howe and five points from the boot of Maisey saw Coventry pull 22-5 clear.
But George Furbank’s try and Dan Lewis’ conversion reduced the arrears to 22-12 at half time, and Lewis added a penalty at the start of the second half.
Two tries in two minutes did the damage for Cambridge though, as Rob Knox and Trimble touched down, and Maisey converted both tries to make it 36-15.
Cambridge were not down and out, and rallied to produce a strong last 20 minutes.
Good work on the line led to Cameron Ruddock touching down, with Lewis converting, and then 10 minutes later, Tom Trotter got the ball over the line for the bonus-point winning fourth try.
However, Cambridge were just unable to get another score for a losing bonus point as well, but they can take plenty of heart from their performance.
Cambridge: Furbank; Elvers, Portsmouth, Elvers, M Ayrton; Lewis, Liebenberg; Ibrahim, Griffiths, Langley, Moon, Bretag-Norris, McCloud, Laxton, Meek.
Replacements: Reeves (Ibrahim, 49), Ruddock (Griffiths, 49), Schoeman (Meek, 51), J Ayrton (Petrides, 52), Trotter (Liebenberg, 64), Petrides (Lewis, 70).
Coventry: Stokes; Howe, Stevens, Knox, Trimble; Maisey, Grasso; Litchfield, Tolmie, Jubb, Poole, Daynes, Povoas, Tuilagi.
Replacements: Byrne (Litchfield, 34), White (Grasso, 53),Harry (Daynes, 58), Grasso (Stokes, 64), Litchfield (Boulton, 67), Price (Tolmie, 67), Hodgson (White, 78), White (Grasso, 78), Boulton (Byrne, 78).
Sin bin: Coventry – Poole (technical offence, 25), White (technical offence, 63).
Scorers: 9min Howe try – Maisey con (0-7), 11 Trimble try (0-12), 26 Ibrahim try – Lewis con (5-12), 32 Howe try – Maisey con (5-19), 39 Maisey pen (5-22), 40+2 Furbank try – Lewis con (12-22), 44 Lewis pen (15-29), 46 Knox try – Maisey con (15-29), 48 Trimble try – Maisey con (15-36), 63 Ruddock try – Lewis con (22-36), 73 Trotter try (27-36).