Late try is a bonus for Cambridge in defeat to Old Elthamians
Winger Dom Lespierre is the menace of the hosts
Missed tackles haunted Cambridge as Dom Lespierre ran in a hat-trick of tries to earn Old Elthamians a 29-28 win in National League One.
It was an encouraging start from Cambridge as they scored the first try after just three minutes, with play moving to the left for Pierre Peres to pick up and dive over the line. Ben Penfold kicked the conversion.
But Old Elthamians were able to make far too much ground without being stopped as they brushed past attempted tackles with ease.
Sam Egerton did well to keep the ball alive for Elthamians in the eighth minute, and as they swept across the pitch, he then casually off-loaded a pass to hooker Jay Rudland-Thomas, who had the simple task of running through to touch down. Joe Carlisle added the extras.
It was not the structures that were hurting Cambridge, but individuals just not being able to put their opponent to the floor and as the half wore on, the problems mounted.
The second try for Elthamians came after Egerton’s delightful little kick over the defence which Lespierre collected cleanly to run straight through to score under the posts, and Carlisle converted.
Lespierre was at it again just five minutes later, going through two missed tackles from halfway to touch down, and Carlisle’s kick made it 21-7.
With only 22 minutes gone, it did look ominous for Cambridge, but they were able to shut up shop for the rest of the half.
And it was a better display after the break, with Elthamians not able to make as much ground.
They did, however, get the first try of the half – and a bonus point – as they kept the ball alive along the line to create an overlap for Lespierre to run in and touch down.
But when Elthamians’ Truman Sullivan was sin-binned after 51 minutes, and then Harry Ledger followed suit seven minutes later, Cambridge mounted a comeback.
Good work along the line after a succession of penalties eventually led to Shane Moynihan grounding the ball, and Penfold added the conversion.
Cambridge full-back Joe Green then scored a brilliant individual try, breaking from halfway before producing a mid-air skip to deceive the last man and sprint clear to score under the posts, with Penfold converting.
However, Cambridge’s hopes of victory suffered a vital setback in the 76th minute when they conceded a penalty just outside the 22, and Tom White made no mistake in landing the three points, making it 29-21.
But there was still time for Cambridge to put pressure on the Elthamians line, and they got some rewards when Matt Hema grubber kicked through, and Oli Petrides raced on to dot the ball down, with Albert Portsmouth converting to earn the hosts two bonus points.
Old Elthamians were worthy winners though, but Cambridge will at least be able to take heart from an improved second half. However, they will know there is still plenty of work to do.
Cambridge: Williams; Petrides, Portsmouth, Hema, Ayrton; Penfold, Peres; Ibrahim, Griffiths, Moynihan, Bretag-Norris, Conquest, Nutley, Rawlings, Onojaife.
Replacements: Britton (Onojaife, 34), Davies (Nutley, 52), Keenan (Peres, 52), Elvers (Portsmouth, 60), Peck (Moynihan, 65), Nutley (Griffiths, 73), Portsmouth (Penfold, 80).
Old Elthamians: Hotston; Lespierre, Moffat, Wilkins, Bennett; Carlisle, Egerton; Rogers, Rudland-Thomas, North, Preocanin, Kench, Messum, Barton, Ledger.
Replacements: Sullivan (Kench, 3), White (Egerton, 26), Claxton (Hotston, 40), Morris (Rudland-Thomas, 40), Bevans-Royston (North, 52), Egerton (Wilkins, 60), Hotston (Bennett, 61).
Referee: Calum Howard.
Sin bin: Old Elthamians – Sullivan (foul play, 51), Ledger (technical offence, 59).
Scorers: 3min Peres try – Penfold con (7-0), 8 Rudland-Thomas try – Carlisle con (7-7), 17 Lespierre try – Carlisle con (7-14), 22 Lespierre try – Carlisle con (7-21), 48 Lespierre try (7-26), 61 Moynihan try – Penfold con (14-26), 64 Williams try – Penfold con (21-26), 76 White pen (21-29), 80+8 Petrides try – Portsmouth con (28-29).