Joe Tarrant sparkles as Cambridge defeat Plymouth Albion in National League One
A hard and fast track, beautiful sunshine and a try fest, what more could you want from a spring afternoon?
Well, all of the above is immaterial for Cambridge, though turned out to be a bit of a bonus in a 48-24 win over Plymouth Albion in National League One.
Richie Williams’ fourth-placed side were looking to keep the pressure on the sides above them in the table, so just needed to secure victory with a try bonus point in any way possible.
They did it with an easy-on-the-eye free-flowing nature, though you can imagine that players and coaching staff of both sides may have been a bit frustrated by such an open game.
There was an element of you score, we score, you score, we score about proceedings, but although it took them time, the hosts were eventually able to shrug off their tenacious opponents to pull clear for the win.
Plymouth had a tough afternoon, with only three players named among the replacements, forwards in the backline and an injury to scrum-half Henry Clement in just the sixth minute.
Young winger Tom Cairns took on the No 9 mantle, and did a good job for his side to get them on the front foot. He also got Albion’s bonus-point winning fourth try.
But making matters for the visitors was running into an in-form and rampant Joe Tarrant.
It was a superlative display from the Cambridge No 15, who scored two tries and assisted in four more.
Unsurprisingly, it earned him the sponsors’ man-of-the-match award, and there was just so much to enjoy about the performance.
In a game of running rugby, he not only spotted the space from the back, but attacked it and exploited it with glee all game. The line breaks were virtually unstoppable, the side-steps untraceable and the passes multiple.
The forwards have gained many of the plaudits for Cambridge this season, and deservedly so, but this was the day of the backs.
Tarrant, who scored a hat-trick in his last match against Tonbridge Juddians, was to the fore within the first two minutes.
As Cambridge attacked down the right, Tarrant delivered a superb back of the hand pass to Joe Green to touch down the first try.
You wondered if it could be a long afternoon for Plymouth, but after they charged down an attempted kick to peg the hosts deep in their own territory, play was then spread wide for George Mills to touch down, and Tom Putt’s conversion gave the visitors a 7-5 lead.
Tarrant stepped inside twice to break clear from around 22m out to score under the posts, and Lawrence Rayner converted to make it 12-7.
But Anthony Maka’s attempted pass from a scrum deep in Cambridge’s own half was intercepted by Alex Ducker, who went on to score to make it 12-12.
However, Cambridge had the lead at half time as a driving maul took them to just short of the try-line and play was moved right where Rayner spotted Tarrant hitting the line at pace to dot down. Rayner’s extras made it 19-12.
Only 19 seconds were on the clock when Tarrant broke through the middle of the pitch again, and after drawing the last man, he went left to Jake McCloud, who seared through at pace to score and Rayner’s conversion made it 26-12.
It was at this point that you wondered whether Cambridge had finally broken Albion’s resolve, but that was not the case.
After going through the phases, Herbie Stupple buried his way over the line and Putt’s conversion got them to within a score of the hosts.
Cambridge charged back in an effort to shake off Plymouth.
Tarrant seized on a bouncing ball from a kick just inside the Albion half, and then delayed the pass before picking out Will Wand, who galloped clear to score in the corner.
More was still to come from Plymouth and this time it was Frank Nowell who balanced a fine tightrope on the left wing before cutting inside to find Cairns, who changed angles to dive over and make it 31-24.
However, Cambridge were finally able to pull clear in the last 10 minutes.
Tarrant got away again and went left to Andrew Henderson, who somehow managed to offload to Kwaku Asiedu who sprinted clear to score.
Scott Lloyd then went straight through the middle of the pitch and drew the last man before putting in Green for his second try.
The final say went to Asiedu, who took a pass after Green’s break to burst away for his second try to make it 48-24.
Cambridge did just as they needed to do, with some panache, to keep their winning momentum going, and Plymouth can at least take some solace from their performance and another bonus point in their bid to beat the drop.
Cambridge: Tarrant; Green, Wand, Lloyd, Henderson; Rayner, Duffin; Morley, Brownlie, Walker, Frost, Baxter, Bretag-Norris, McCloud, Maka.
Replacements: Peck (Morley, 39), Sloot (Maka, 50), Asiedu (Henderson, 55), Patrick (Rayner, 68), Henderson (Duffin, 68), Priestley (Brownlie, 71), Morley (Walker, 71), Maka (Frost, 76).
Plymouth Albion: Nowell; Cairns, Parsons, Stupple, Ducker; Putt, Clement; Pullinger-Ham, Salter, Rukhadze, Collier, Sprangle, Clemson, Mills, Clarke:
Replacements: Wilkinson (Clement, 6), Chapman (Mills, 67), McFarlane (Collier, 67).
Referee: Peter Caunt.
Scorers: 4min Green try (5-0); 8 Mills try - Putt con (5-7), 30 Tarrant try - Rayner con (12-7), 38 Ducker try (12-12), 40+2 Tarrant try - Rayner con (19-12), 41 McCloud try - Rayner con (26-12), 49 Stupple try - Putt con (26-19), 60 Wand try (31-19), 66 Cairns try (31-24), 68 Asiedu try (36-24), 79 Green try - Lloyd con (43-24), 80 Asiedu try (48-24).