Harry Morley hat-trick helps Cambridge sign off with victory over Fylde
Final day win in National League One
Ross Stewart’s tenure as Cambridge director of rugby came to an end with a 29-7 win over Fylde in National League One.
On what felt like an autumnal afternoon, the wind and rain meant that the chances of open, running rugby were slim.
With nothing for the hosts to play for and the visitors already relegated, it was difficult to expect anything more than end-of-season fayre although it did allow the chance to glimpse into the future.
Pragmatism and teamwork has ruled at Volac Park this season, with the hosts being far more difficult to beat, but the caveat to that is that the showboating and flair has also been a bit more subdued.
For a club that has so long been used to running in the tries, it has been a transition that at times has just taken a little getting used to, but it does feel as if the balance between pragmatism and running rugby is only a click away.
What cannot be overstated is the turnaround from a defensive nature; Cambridge no longer look like they will cough up easy points – more often than not, scores have to be hard earned against them.
In patches against Fylde, they showed how good they can be with ball in hand and the architect of that front foot option is Jake McCloud.
From the base of a solid scrum, his speed gives Cambridge such a dangerous outlet at No 8, and if that can be harnessed with the backs in the next campaign, then that potency as a side will no doubt return.
However, they will not be able to call on their hat-trick hero Harry Morley.
The loose-head prop is deservedly making the step up to the Championship to go full-time with Jersey, so he made sure to sign off in style.
Cambridge’s pragmatism was shown in the first 14 minutes as their patience of going through the phases and working their way along the line was rewarded when Morley got over the line from close range.
Six minutes later, more good continuity play along the line led to a fine offload for the supporting Archie Russell to collect and touch down.
The final try of the first half came in the 26th minute, and it was via another key tenet of Cambridge’s play this season, their line-out.
Defensively and offensively it has been a huge asset for them, and in this instance, a catch and drive from a line-out saw Morley ground the ball for his second, with Ben Penfold adding the conversion to make it 17-0.
Fylde never stopped trying to play though. They were not content to kick for touch or territory, they sought to maintain possession and run the ball; it was just that their execution was lacking at times.
They got the first try of the second half, with Lewis Pattison making the break from halfway and then going outside to Tom Carleton, who raced clear to touch down and Greg Smith added the conversion.
Morley completed his hat-trick in the 51st minute, seizing on a line-out to race clear to score.
The final score of the game came in the 59th minute, with another catch and drive leading to Fylde infringing on their line in defence and referee Tom Davis awarding a penalty try.
So it was the perfect send-off for Stewart as the bonus-point win earned them 10th place in the table.
Cambridge: M Ayrton; Elvers, Russell, Hema, Stanway; Penfold, Keenan; Morley, Rayment, Meek, Bretag-Norris, Peters, Conquest, Rawlings, McCloud.
Replacements: Ruddock (Rayment, 60), Baxter (Peters, 60), Moynihan (Meek, 65), Hennessey (Elvers, 68), Creighton (Keenan, 73), Meek (Morley, 73).
Fylde: Wilkinson; Pattison, Briers, Fowden, Carleton; Smith, Nicholls; Lewis, Gregory, Irving, Garrod, Ashcroft, Corris, Burtonwood, Harrison.
Replacements: McCarthy (Harrison, 58), Richardson (Irving, 58), Carlton (Smith, 69), Foster (Pattison, 69), Pope (Ashcroft 76), Harrison (Burtonwood, 78).
Scorers: 14min Morley try (5-0), 20 Russell try (10-0), 26 Morley – Penfold con (17-0), 48 Carleton try – Smith con (17-7), 51 Morley try (22-7), 59 penalty try (29-7).
Referee: Thomas Davis.
Sin bin: Fylde – Briers (foul play, 62).