Mike Stanway hat-trick helps Cambridge complete the treble over Cambridge University
Rare win for Town over Gown in traditional fixture
Cambridge completed a hat-trick of wins in the Town v Gown fixture by beating Cambridge University 34-12 at Grange Road.
The traditional game has been dominated by the Light Blues throughout the decades, with last year seeing an historic first draw between the two.
It is an evening which always draws a sizeable crowd, and there was no change in this year’s renewal, but the big difference was the strength of the two sides.
Richie Williams fielded arguably the strongest Cambridge team since they have been in the National Leagues, including first-team regulars Matt Hema and George Bretag-Norris on their return from injury.
In contrast, the students were without captain Nick Koster and fly-half Mike Phillips, two key components in their form of the last year, and they suffered a further blow with an early injury to Andrew Hunter.
It helped take a sizeable bulk out of the hosts’ pack, something they would not want at any time but especially against a forward pack as physical and mobile as the town side.
Having that strength and power is one thing, being able to use it to good effect is a different matter though, but Cambridge were able to do just that.
They looked after possession well to force the Light Blues onto the backfoot, and were then able to stretch the play and force their hosts into errors, bringing into play their speedy and adept backs.
The dominance of the Cambridge pack was also thwarting the university’s ability to get any type of prolonged possession going, and restricted the opportunities to try to get some of their structures and systems in full flow.
The students were not able to match the physicality of Cambridge as a whole, and that will be something they will no doubt want to work on after this opening run of four matches, which serve as a mini pre-season.
There were positives, with Chris Bell growing into a greater leadership role in each passing game, Stephen Leonard doing well to step into the shoes of Koster to inject some power off the back of a scrum that at times struggled and Jordan Eriksen looks promising at lock.
There can be no complaints about the defeat though, as Cambridge just plain and simply had too much for them – and at this rate, Williams could have his hands full of players pushing for a place in the first team.
It was a promising opening 10 minutes for the university, however, and it earned its just rewards with a try from hooker Fionn Dionn Kelly.
The visitors started to exert their authority on the game, gaining a stranglehold, and from a catch and drive at a line-out Joe Britton came up holding the ball after crossing the try-line.
After a spell of play where Cambridge threatened, the deadlock was broken when a neat flick pass from Britton inside his own half led to Mike Stanway racing clear to dive over in the corner for a 10-5 lead.
Ashley Elvers then ghosted through and switched play close to the line for Tom Harrison to drive forward, and from the next phase of play, possession was moved wide for Stanway to score in the corner.
The Cambridge forwards were at it again on the stroke of half time as a catch and drive from a line-out saw Wade Schoeman touch down, and Fin Creighton landed the conversion to make it 22-5.
After the break, a dropped ball under pressure saw Elvers pick up and then get a pass away for Stanway to complete his hat-trick, with Creighton converting.
The visitors’ pack were at their peak again in the 59th minute, with another catch and drive seeing Harrison dot down to make it 34-5.
The students rallied in the last 10 minutes to become the force they were again at the start of the game.
Their persistence was rewarded in the final play as Bell touched down and Jake Hennessey landed the conversion, but the plaudits went to the Town with a 34-12 win.
Cambridge University: Baines; Story, Gatus, Blick, King; Hennessey, Bell; MacCallum, Dionn Kelly, Dixon, Beckett, Eriksen, Hunter, McMahon, Leonard.
Replacements: Schusman, Dean, Somers, Huppatz, Smart, Hargreaves, Elms, Perks, Montesino-Jones.
Cambridge: Elvers; Stanway, Petrides, Hema, Collard; Hardie, Creighton; Harrison, Ruddock, Copeland, Waring, Bretag-Norris, Britton, Sloot, Schoeman.
Replacements: Bates, Sully, Hare, Traynor, Collicott.
Scorers: 10min Dionn Kelly try (5-0), 15 Britton try (5-5), 27 Stanway try (5-10), 36 Stanway try (5-15), 40+2 Schoeman try – Creighton con (5-22), 44 Stanway try (5-29), 59 Harrison try (5-34), 80+6 Bell try – Hennessey con (12-34).
Referee: Daniel Rowlands.