St John's College clinch Cuppers final win over Queens' College
Forward power proves pivotal at Grange Road
Front row power play helped St John’s College to a 35-13 win over Queens’ College for their fourth Cambridge University Rugby Football Union Cuppers victory in five years.
St John’s have long been the dominant force in college rugby, and they were out to maintain their impressive winning streak on a day of finals at Grange Road.
In contrast, Queens’ were playing in their first Cuppers final since 1985 but having started the season in Division Five, they have ended up in Division Three.
In their ranks they also had the experience of Blues Ollie Phillips and Tyler Hammond, and that wealth of knowledge was going to be invaluable against the St John’s pack.
The front row of Will Dean, Fionn Dillon-Kelly and Demitri Moros would probably not look out of place for the Blues, so the task was always going to be huge for Queens’, and so it proved.
It was a case of damage limitation at the scrum, with the St John’s pack eating up territory for fun and turning over possession equally as comfortably.
What should not be underestimated though was the defensive performance from Queens’, as while they were under considerable pressure, their drift defence was having a big impact.
Hammond was also showing his immense talent at the breakdown, and that was cajoling his team-mates into some equally big hits.
George Griffiths had kicked an early penalty to put St John’s ahead, but Callum Young replied after 12 minutes to make it 3-3.
When St John’s tried to kick through after 17 minutes, the ball was blocked and Phillips picked up to make halfway before passing wide for Alex Roberts-Huntley who sprinted clear to touch down to make it 8-3 to Queens’.
A stoic defensive effort was posted by Queens’ for the rest of the half before St John’s finally found their way through, stealing a scrum for scrum-half Jacob Heath to touch down, and Griffiths converted for a 10-3 lead.
It was going to be a test of stamina for Queens’ in the second half against Dean, Dillon-Kelly, Moros and co, and St John’s extended their lead after 43 minutes through another Griffiths penalty.
A scrum on the line in the 52nd minute ended with Dillon-Kelly dotting the ball down, and Griffiths converted for 20-8 before adding another penalty.
Queens’ never gave up hope and fought to the bitter end, with big hits to try to stop St John’s in their tracks and were rewarded with a try as Jack Capstick Dale scored on the overlap.
However, St John’s hit back as another scrum saw Max Antcliff touch down at the base, and there was still time for one more score as they completed a 35-13 which was forged through their impressive forwards.
St John’s College: Saunter; Ashworth, McAllister, Griffiths, Sebabayake; Blick, Heath; Dean, Dillon-Kelly, Moros, Fitzsimmons, Friend, Smith, Moore, Antcliff.
Replacements: Somers, Zarrabian, Obiri, Hughes, Laudage, McClune, Stensrud, Lodge.
Queens’ College: Capstick Dale; Roberts-Huntley, Morris, Young, Machado; Phillips, Lloyd; Bulman, Minett, King, Jennings, MacDonald, Pearson, Whitehead, Hammond.
Replacements: Mace, Turnbull, Wallace, Marsden-Smedley, Williams, Sinclair-Williams, Huggins, Moore.
Scorers: 5min Griffiths pen (3-0), 12 Young pen (3-3), 17 Roberts-Huntley try (3-8), 33 Heath try – Griffiths con (10-8), 43 Griffiths pen (13-8), 52 Dillon-Kelly try – Griffiths con (20-8), 60 Griffiths pen (23-8), 72 Capstick Dale try (23-13), 80 Antcliff try (28-13), 80+4 Lodge try – Griffiths con (35-13).
Sin bin: Queens’ – Phillips (foul play, 60).
Referee: Thomas Northcote.