Jake Hennessey is the four-try hero for Cambridge University against the Pacific Islanders
Centre runs rings around touring side
Jake Hennessey was the star of the show for Cambridge University as they defeated the Pacific Islanders 45-14 at Grange Road.
It was an intriguing evening for the Light Blues as some of the fringe players were given a mid-term opportunity to stake their claim for a place in the Varsity Match squad.
They were given a stern test by the Pacific Islanders, captained by Samoa international Dan Leo, who were unrelenting in their physical presence.
There were flashes of the flair which is so often associated with Pacific Island teams, with the one-handed ball-carrying approach as they got up a head of speed, but it was the Cambridge captain for the night that showed the quickest pair of heels.
It is difficult to remember the last university player to score four tries at Grange Road, at least in the last 10 years, but that is exactly what the inside centre achieved.
Hennessey was orchestrating the back-line for the Light Blues as they threatened to get their slick, off-loading game in full motion. It stopped and stuttered in phases, but when it worked it left the visitors rooted to the spot.
On a broader point, it showed that despite the changes to the Light Blues team, the squad as a whole is on board with the systems and style of play.
Hennessey was one of only two Blues in the squad – the other being Jonny Dixon – but the inexperienced and youthful students did not shirk the physical confrontation, and that will please the coaching staff.
They were at times battered back over the gain line by their opponents in a game that was contested in a fierce but friendly manner, but they tried to give as good as they got.
Some good possession across the line led to Hennessey showing deft footwork to breakthrough from a way out to get the first try after 18 minutes, and he also landed the conversion.
Scrum-half Charlie Saunders did well on the break to off-load to Hennessey in the 23rd minute, and the centre was too quick for the opposition as he raced clear to touch down, and the extras made it 14-0.
After a long period of defence from the hosts, the Pacific Islanders finally got across the line when hooker Viliame Stevens forced his way over, and Sailasa Vunivesilavu kicked the conversion to make it 14-7 at half time.
It was not long into the second half before Tom Walton finished off a line-out in the corner to make it 19-7.
With Pacific Islanders having a player sin-binned in the 51st minute, the university made the extra man tell by going wide for James Moore to ground the ball in the corner.
The visitors were making more headway into the Light Blues’ half and they earned their rewards when Vunivesilavu took a quick tap penalty to drive over the line, and the scrum-half converted his own try.
Hennessey completed his hat-trick in the 68th minute, picking up a drop ball in his own half to race clear and score in the corner.
Joey Gatus got the next try for the students, doing well out wide to sidestep his opponent and get round to score, with Hennessey adding the conversion.
Great footwork in the final play of the game saw Hennessey’s turn of foot get him through again for his fourth try, and he also added the conversion to take his overall points haul to 30.
On a night when the hosts wore orange shorts in support of the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), overall it was a good test for the wider squad and will serve them well; the only slight negative being a couple of injury worries.
Cambridge University: Gatus; Story, Gnodde, Hennessey, Roberts-Huntley; Millen, Saunders; MacCallum, Schusman, Dixon, Cook, Beckett, Hargreaves, Montesino-Jones, Walton.
Replacements: Kelly, Campbell, Miller, Lindsay, Harbourne, Elms, Moore, Blick.
Pacific Islanders squad: Tomlinson-Reed, Rockett jnr, A Williams, Tuinasakea, Olaga, Petelo, Vunivesilavu, Smith, V Stevens, Moult, Leo, O’Connor, Daveta, O Williams, S Stevens, Vodo, Laqeratabua, Little, Gaunavou, Johnson, Keletaona, Raloka, Husthwaite.
Scorers: 18min Hennessey try – Hennessey con (7-0), 23 Hennessey try – Hennessey con (14-0), 40+4 Vunivesilavu try – Vunivesilavu con (14-7), 44 Walton try (19-7), 52 Moore try – Hennessey con (26-7), 60 V Stevens try - Vunivesilavu con (26-14), 68 Hennessey try (31-14), 77 Altus try – Hennessey con (38-14), 80+3 Hennessey try – Hennessey con (45-14).
Referee: Laura Pettingale.