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Head coach James Shanahan takes pride in Cambridge University RUFC 10-match winning run

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Cambridge University RUFC after their win over the Royal Navy. Picture: Rob Heginbotham (29138003)
Cambridge University RUFC after their win over the Royal Navy. Picture: Rob Heginbotham (29138003)

James Shanahan has expressed pride in the Cambridge University RUFC squad after they finished their season on a 10-match winning run.

The Light Blues completed the Armed Forces set last Wednesday, beating the Royal Navy 36-15 at Grange Road, having previously won against the RAF and Army A.

It made it five wins out of five this Lent Term, following a run in the Michaelmas Term that culminated with a 15-0 victory over Oxford in the Varsity Match at Twickenham.

There has been so much to be impressed by about the students’ displays this term, in both defence and attack, and it is believed that the last time they won 10 matches in a row was in 1983/84.

“The boys have been outstanding, I’m so proud of them,” said head coach Shanahan. “What I’ve really admired about them is that the services sides are usually really physical and that’s where we lose out, but we’ve not taken a backwards step.

“We’ve been so physical, our defence has been outstanding.

“We’ve won those games with some outstanding attack, and we’ve scored some great tries, but it’s been on the basis of our defence.

“I think our defence has been brilliant over this period. The trust the boys have in the system and each other, I’m really proud of them.

“The ability to move the ball into space and really express themselves I think has been outstanding.”

The win over the Royal Navy marked a Cambridge swansong for a number of players, including Miles Huppatz, Rory Triniman and 50-cap half-backs Chris Bell and Mike Phillips.

They have been a key part of the set-up as the Light Blues have re-built after a difficult time that saw them lose six Varsity Matches in a row, from 2010 to 2015, but they have now won three of the last four.

“When I came back five years ago, the club was in a pretty poor state, it had two record defeats in the Varsity, it had lost its way a little bit,” said Shanahan, who expects at least 13 Blues to return in the next academic year.

“It’s taken this time to really put the development down, with Scott Annett, who has been immense, and James Owen, with the strength and conditioning, but then it has been the players that have really bought
into it.

“People like Chris Bell and Mike Phillips are the DNA of the club and really pushed standards, and you’ve got people like Stephen Leonard who is going to be here another few years, and others like that, and I think it’s really paying dividends.

“This year, I think we were definitely the better side and we deserved to win against Oxford, the year before I think was a learning curve for a lot of those boys and now, another year on, I think we will be stronger and better for it.

“It’s a shame a few boys are leaving. Chris Bell and Mike Phillips have been huge over the last few years, and I think to replace them is going to be very tough but I think we’re in a really good place.

“I have nothing but pride in the boys, they’ve been a pleasure to coach this year, especially this Lent Term.”

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