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Impressive Cambridge surge to victory over Blackheath in National League One

Billy Walker scored two tries for Cambridge against Blackheath. Picture: Chris Fell
Billy Walker scored two tries for Cambridge against Blackheath. Picture: Chris Fell

Controlled urgency was an inspiration for Cambridge to clinch a 34-7 win over Blackheath in National League One.

In an impressive win for the hosts, it was the intensity in which they applied themselves in different areas of the pitch that was ultimately the foundation for the success.

You never felt that there was anything frantic or frenetic about what Cambridge did, there was an overriding sense of calmness and composure that they were managing any aspect of the game which was within their own control.

It may sound like minor points but, on a day when there was a strong wind blowing down the Grantchester Road pitch, it even came down to the trajectory of their kicking, the distance of attempted passes and working in pairs in close contact.

This was not a day to be sending high kicks up to clear your lines, and Blackheath fell foul of this a number of times in the first half when going into the conditions, heaping the pressure back on themselves.

With balls almost going back beyond their starting point and out for line-outs, it was asking for trouble against Cambridge’s well-oiled line-out try-scoring machine.

The haste to clear their lines was not quite the same for the hosts when they went into the wind, with play at close quarters the optimum outcome - truth be told, Blackheath were trying to get the same message on in the first half but it was not reaching the on-pitch decision-makers.

This is why the management of the game from the players was so impressive from Cambridge, and then you have to add in the urgency to the control.

That came about through their speed at hitting the line in defence and, when and where possible, in attack.

There was no time for the visitors to settle as Cambridge started on the front foot, and the first try arrived after just five minutes.

A tap penalty was taken and Billy Walker powered over the line to touch down.

Cambridge exerted a sustained period of pressure in the Blackheath 22 for the next 10 minutes, but their opponents were coping well to keep the hosts at bay.

However, when they attempted to kick for touch, it blew them back deeper in their own territory and you just felt there would only be one outcome from the impending line-out.

Duly, it was delivered. A catch and drive was set up, with Jake McCloud picking up from the base at the second phase to touch down. Harry Johnston’s conversion made it 12-0.

There was another catch and drive from a line-out in the 24th minute, and Walker was to emerge with the ball again for his second try, and Johnston’s extras made it 19-0.

However, there were to be no more scores for the half.

It left you wondering if the lead was quite enough given the conditions. You always imagined that it would be a backs-to-the-wall situation in defence for Cambridge in the second half regardless of their lead, but were four scores the minimum required?

The answer was a resounding no. And it was boosted by a try for the hosts just five minutes into the second half.

Having won a scrum in midfield, they moved play right and then back left for Will Wand to break clear and, in the tackle, he was able to get possession away to Kwakua Asiedu, who raced away to touch down.

The size of the task was suddenly made much bigger for Blackheath as, if the wind was worth 20 points, they then had to find something on top of the conditions to counter Cambridge’s dominance in the first period.

That controlled urgency was to the fore in the 58th minute as Blackheath won a scrum around the 22 and attempted to kick clear, but Cambridge fly-half Johnston charged down the clearance and was then up quickest to win the race to ground the ball for a fifth try for the hosts.

Blackheath did still have the wind in their favour and attempted to register some points on the board, but players were often trying to power through alone and they were only ever going to be battered back given the abrasive nature of the Cambridge defence this season.

After a spell of hitting the line, they did finally get over through Dominic McGeekie, and Ollie Claxton added the conversion.

But the final say went to Cambridge as Kieran Frost seized on a loose throw around midway as Blackheath attempted to get on the attack, and he in turn fed Wand, who sprinted clear to touch down to seal the 34-7 victory.

It was a deserved sixth win in a row for Cambridge, and another impressive display which moves them up to fourth in the table.

Cambridge: Tarrant; Green, Wand, Hema, Asiedu; Johnston, Duffin; Morley, Brownlie, Walker, Frost, Baxter, Bretag-Norris, McCloud, Adams.

Replacements: Dawson (Adams, 15), Peck (Morley, 49), Veenendaal (Duffin, 55), Henderson (Asiedu, 58), Priestley (Brownlie, 64), Morley (Walker, 70).

Blackheath: Foster; Lloyd, Spencer, Burcham, Kershaw; Hennessey, Claxton; Williams, Morris, Boye, Ure, Taylor, Dugmore, Owen, Dass.

Replacements: Collins (Boye, 28), McGeekie (Ure, 45), Aremu (Hennessey, 51), Boye (Collins, 58), Walliker (Morris, 58).

Scoring: 5min Walker try (5-0), 17 McCloud try - Johnston con (12-0), 24 Walker try - Johnston con (19-0), 45 Asiedu try (24-0), 58 Johnston try (29-0), 68 McGeekie try - Claxton con (29-7), 75 Wand try (34-7).

Referee: Alan Chandrachud.

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