History made as Town v Gown ends in a draw
There is no separating Cambridge University RUFC and Cambridge Rugby Club
Gareth Baxter’s late try meant that the Town v Gown match between Cambridge University and Cambridge ended in a draw for the first time.
A sizeable crowd had gathered, with many students no doubt making their first venture to Grange Road in the first fixture since the official start of the Michaelmas Term, and they were treated to an entertaining match.
There was no end to the try scoring, with an almost basketball feel to the game, with the teams taking it in turns to touch down.
But while the free-flowing nature of the match made it easy on the eye and enjoyable to watch, the two sets of coaching teams will be left pondering some of the more technical elements of the performances.
Cambridge fielded a young side with only a smattering of first-team experience, while it is still early days for the Light Blues and they were clearly trying out a number of different combinations.
It is perhaps for those reasons that so many of the 10 tries came through set-pieces, with five being a direct result of catch and drives.
If truth be told, there was very little contest at the breakdown as play ended up going in a very direct route from one end of the pitch to the other.
And with little opposition in stopping the rolling maul, it was the obvious weapon to use – but there is no doubt that both teams will seek to improve their defence in that area.
Cambridge have only won the Town v Gown twice in the fixture’s history, and they seemed up against it in the early exchanges.
From a line-out in the 14th minute, the students drove for the line and Tyler Hammond peeled off the back to touch down, with Mike Phillips converting.
Nine minutes later, another catch and drive saw hooker Andrew Burnett ground the ball for the university.
But play soon switched to the other end of the pitch, and from a line-out, Alex Rayment crossed for Cambridge.
There was a break from the norm in the 34th minute when Cambridge moved the ball right from a scrum, and winger Mike Stanway took possession to step inside and burst through to reduce the arrears to 12-10.
Nick Koster was then sin-binned for the Light Blues, and the extra man told for Cambridge just before half time as Rayment got his second try from another catch and drive to make it 17-12.
Not long after the break, the university levelled matters when a ball along the line seemed to be spilled by Phillips, but he hacked on and then chased possession to dot down, making it 17-17.
Four minutes later, Cambridge kept the ball alive after some good ball carrying from Jamie Dever ended with play being spread right to Matt Waring on the wing, who charged through to touch down for 22-17.
Dever was then yellow carded for Cambridge, but having weathered the spell while he was in the sin-bin, they made an error at a line-out on their own 5m for Buchan Richardson to snatch possession unopposed to touch down.
And 12 minutes later, the university’s No 8 picked up from the back of a scrum to charge over to give his side 27-22 lead.
It looked like Ed Loftus’s last-ditch tackle to thwart Owain Collard would earn his side victory, but Cambridge had the final say when Baxter charged down a clearing kick and followed up to touch down, and after the conversion was missed, it meant the match finished 27-27.
Cambridge University: Amesbury; Russell, Triniman, Craib, King; Phillips, Tullie; Dean, Burnett, Somers, Rose, Beckett, Koster, Hammond, Richardson.
Replacements: Huppatz, Briggs, Dixon, Leonard, Eriksen, Bell, Loftus, Griffiths, Hennessey.
Cambridge: Hart; Stanway, J Ayrton, Bannerman, Collard; Green, Peres; Peck, Rayment, Naqasima, Peters, Baxter, Carroll, Laxton, Waring.
Replacements: Ruddock, Dever, Sully, Possain, Rodgers, Worrall-Clare, Kingdom, Ignarski.
Scorers: 14min Hammond try – Phillips con (7-0), 23 Burnett try (12-0), 26 Rayment try (12-5), 34 Stanway try (12-10), 40+1 Rayment try – Green con (12-17), 42 Phillips try (17-17), 46 Waring try (17-22), 62 Richardson try (22-22), 74 Richardson try (27-22), 80+4 Baxter try (27-27).
Sin bin: Cambridge University – Koster (foul play, 40); Cambridge – Dever (foul play, 49).
Referee: Andrew Smith.