Late try earns Cambridge University RUFC victory over British Police
Jake Hennessey conversion seals win
Engaging, engrossing and thoroughly entertaining, the British Police could hardly have been a more suitable opponent for Cambridge University in their penultimate game before heading to Twickenham.
It was the first visit of the British Police to face the Light Blues at Grange Road, and they proved to be more than worthy opponents, with the hosts eventually running out 42-40 winners.
With Oxford looming in the immediate future, on December 7, the students required a thorough test of all their systems and structures – which have been difficult to build given the spate of injuries this Michaelmas Term – and they certainly got it from the Police.
The visitors arrived in Cambridge with a reputation for being a large outfit, and they certainly had the physical prowess to provide a stern test to the hosts’ defence.
But they were equally adept at moving the ball and stretching play, which put stresses on the university in other areas as well.
With six tries each, it probably shows that offensive play won the day, but it was also the flow of penalties that dictated the scoring patterns – when the university were on the better side of the referee’s whistle, they were in the points, and vice versa.
That penalty count may need to be looked at by the students as it got a little too high in the first half – a telling factor in them surrendering a 21-5 lead – but they were much more on point at the breakdown after half time.
With so little between the sides throughout the game, it was telling that the final say went to Matt Watson, whose try in the 80th minute, converted by Jake Hennessey, earned the win.
The 20-year-old blind-side flanker returned from a knee injury against Crawshay’s Welsh XV last week, but he really made up for lost time against the Police.
He added a dynamic presence to the back row, and his support lines caught the eye as he had an involvement in four of Cambridge’s six tries.
It was, however, the Police that got the opening score, with a great break through the centres finished off by South Wales Police full-back Ceri Young.
Watson was in full flight two minutes later though, with a good piece of running and ball carrying to touch down beneath the posts.
The No 6 made another break four minutes later, and drew the last man before off-loading to Archie Russell to touch down, with Mike Phillips landing a second conversion.
The Police had Mike Worthington sin-binned after 15 minutes, and a minute later, the university’s catch and drive from a line-out was held up just short of the line, and from the next phase, Stephen Leonard reached out to touch down, with Phillips’ extras making it 21-5.
Play soon swung up the other end of the pitch, and from another drive at a line-out, Cameron Zeiss got the ball down for the Police.
The hectic nature showed no sign of calming as the Light Blues produced some of their best running rugby of the term, and with it a contender for their try of the season in the 27th minute.
Great work running the ball back from deep by George Griffiths saw him move possession to Watson, who ate up loads of ground before off-loading to Hennessey to burst through unopposed to touch down beneath the posts.
However, as the penalty count totted up against the Light Blues, the Police got back into the game.
A powerful scrum led to Great Manchester Police’s Chris Roddy grounding the ball over the line, and then after a powerful maul down the middle of the pitch, possession was moved left for Police Service of Scotland’s Russell McKeown to touch down.
And with three conversions from West Midlands Police’s Chris Scott, it made it 28-26 at half time.
The visitors completed their comeback three minutes into the second half, with Young charging down the middle of the pitch to score, and Scott landed the conversion.
Sam Johnson was sin-binned for the Police after 55 minutes, and while they were down to 14 the university moved play along the line for Henry King to cut in off the wing to touch down.
A penalty try was awarded to the Police for a Light Blues infringement at the scrum after 72 minutes, but the winning try arrived eight minutes later.
Patience was the key for the university in the visitors’ 22, and they eventually made it pay with Watson grounding the ball and Hennessey.
It was an important win for the students in a testing and rewarding fixture, which sets them up nicely for the 70th Steele-Bodger XV match next Wednesday (November 22).
Cambridge University: Griffiths; Triniman, Russell, Hennessey, King; Phillips, Bell; Briggs, Burnett, Dixon, Koster, Hunter, Watson, Leonard, Richardson.
Replacements: Huppatz, Dean, Troughton, Rose, Beckett, Hammond, Elms, Young.
British Police: Young; McKeown, Hancox, Moffat; Scott, Francis; Preece, Worthington, Zeiss, Hardern, Roddy, Griffiths, Mills, Phillips.
Replacements: Moody, Rutledge, Gerrard, Tayler, Johnson, Black, Bryans, Davies, Aldam.
Referee: Tim O’Connell.
Scorers: 5min Young try (0-5), 7 Watson try – Phillips con (7-5), 11 Russell try – Phillips con (14-5), 16 Leonard try – Phillips con (21-5), 23 Hardern try – Scott con (21-12), 27 Hennessey try – Phillips con (28-12), 35 Roddy try – Scott con (28-19), 39 McKeown try – Scott con (28-26), 43 Young try – Scott con (28-33), 61 King try – Phillips con (35-33), 72 penalty try (35-40), 80 Watson try – Hennessey con (42-40).
Sin bin: British Police – Worthington (foul play, 15), Johnson (foul play, 55).