Lawrence Rayner boots Cambridge to last-gasp victory over Bishop's Stortford
Hosts edge one-point win at Volac Park
Lawrence Rayner landed a last-minute penalty to earn Cambridge a 23-22 win over Bishop’s Stortford in National League One at Volac Park.
It was almost a repeat performance for the hosts from their game against Caldy two weeks ago, winning with minutes to go, conceding a try and then having the pressure in and around the 22 in the last play of the game.
This time, however, there was a different outcome.
Against the Merseysiders, they ended up being too hasty and knocking on to lose 27-22, but they had clearly learnt their lesson.
Cambridge kept it tight and did not try anything outlandish or ambitious, maintaining their patience to eat up the ground into their opponents 22.
You could see what they were attempting, either to go through the phases to reach the try-line or to draw a penalty from the visitors, and the latter is exactly what happened.
Up-stepped Rayner from a central position, and away the penalty was dispatched to see Cambridge return to winning ways after a run of three successive defeats.
It was perhaps a little harsh on Stortford as a draw really would have been the fair result as there was very little to split the sides.
Two points separated them in the table going into the game, and that close proximity to each other was reflected on the pitch as well.
With the back threes of both sides potentially potent, they seemed to struggle in equal measure to get the ball to them – perhaps it was a case of cancelling each other out – but on the few occasions they did receive quality possession, they made it tell.
The negating of each other went all the way through the game, including at the set piece.
From a Cambridge perspective though, what they should take from the game most is what they can do when they make those parts click.
Sam Yawayawa touched down in the 51st, and that was after a break on the wing first, and then when possession was recycled, he drifted inside to then pounce through the middle.
There was similarly good support play and recycling after Rob Conquest broke the gain line, with Jake McCloud finally sprinting through in open play to touch down.
It illustrated what Cambridge can do on the front foot and moving possession to avoid contact, and the final play was a great example of trusting in their systems and being patient to exact a reward – something that they have not always done this season.
Rayner had slotted a penalty to put Cambridge ahead after seven minutes, but Stortford went straight back down the other end and after Jimmy Rea’s break, play was recycled for Dan Elsom to eventually reach out for the try to make it 5-3.
Cambridge had struggled to get their game going, but a big scrum in their own 22 in the 35th minute, after three consecutive penalties against them, prevented Stortford adding any points to their dominance from that period of play.
After the game had moved up the other end, Cambridge earned a penalty. Rayner’s effort hit the post but bounced back in play, and the hosts moved possession wide – though Stortford may have cause to point to a forward pass – for Kwaku Asiedu to score in the corner to make it 8-5 at half time.
Stortford had the perfect response at the start of the second half as they showed a great deal of patience under the hosts’ posts for Louis Castiglione to touch down, with Manu Vunipola adding the conversion.
Yawayawa’s try restored Cambridge’s advantage, and McCloud’s score in the 68th minute, converted by Rayner, built the hosts’ lead to 20-12.
Vunipola kicked a penalty to take Stortford back to within a score in the 75th minute, and then in the 80th minute, Sam Winter burst through from a pass off the back of a scrum to touch down, although Cambridge players were insistent the ball had not been grounded.
It gave Stortford a two-point lead, but then Cambridge’s patience took over, and they worked play to allow Rayner a shot at the posts, which he took with glee.
Cambridge: M Ayrton; Asideu, J Ayrton, Hema, Yawayawa; Rayner, Duffin; Ibrahim, Ruddock, Higgins, Benoy, Bretag-Norris, McCloud, Rawlings, Hipwell.
Replacements: Laxton (Rawlings, 46), Rayment (Ruddock, 52), Peck (Ibrahim, 52), Conquest (Hipwell, 54), Ibrahim (Higgins, 79).
Bishop’s Stortford: Walker; Hankin, Winter, Scantlebury, Rea; Vunipola, Banks; Castiglione, Caulfield, Walker, George, Tomlinson, Apperley, Elsom, McCraith.
Replacements: James (Caulfield, 18), Etherington (George, 40), Coleman (McCraith, 59), Simmonds (Scantlebury, 64), McCrone (Walker, 69), Walker (Castiglione, 71).
Referee: Calum Howard.
Scorers: 7min Rayner pen (3-0), 10 Elsom try (3-5), 40+6 Asiedu try (8-5), 43 Castiglione try – Vunipola con (8-12), 51 Yawayawa try (13-12), 68 McCloud try – Rayner con (20-12), 75 Vunipola pen (20-15), 80+2 Winter try – Vunipola con (20-22), 80+7 Rayner pen (23-22).