Penguins Punish Error-Prone Blues
Rugby Blues slide to third consecutive defeat, losing 33-14 to the Penguins.
Penguins Invitational 33 – 14 Cambridge
The Light Blues’ losing streak was extended against an enterprising Penguins outfit yesterday as a much-changed team struggled to impose themselves on a free-flowing game of attacking Rugby.
From the outset it was clear that the smaller Blues’ pack were going to have their work cut out for them. The Penguins flew into the early rucks, securing several penalties against the reeling Blues forwards.
The Blues did have an early opportunity but buccaneering blindside Ed White’s adventurous grubber only led to a Penguins 22 drop-out. After that chance, the Penguins starved the Blues of possession, winning cheap penalties as the Cambridge backline constantly strayed offside.
After a second consecutive penalty for offside, the Penguins kicked for the corner and a muscular drive from the resulting lineout saw them set up camp on the Blues’ 5m line. The ball was spun wide, only for centre Fred Burdon to strip his opposing number of possesion and lead the Blues safely away from their try line.
The Penguins weren’t able to capitalise on their territorial dominance and it was only a matter of time before the Blues turned the ball over. When they did, the ensuing move was a classic Cambridge counter-attack. A series of spectacular off-loads between the centres and flankers culminated in a converted try for fleet-footed fly-half Jimmy Richards.
With the rain worsening, the two sides struggled to maintain possession, knocking on regularly. If anything, the handling errors played into the Penguins’ hands; as with last week’s match against the Army, the Blues’ ailing scrum conceded penalty after penalty. After one such penalty a quick tap by the Penguins saw Ben Smith slide in for the score after several thumping hand-offs.
The Penguins were utterly relentless. The Blues were again penalised for offside, the resulting penalty being kicked deep into the Cambridge 22 by Owen Farrell, son of league legend Andy. A rolling maul saw the Penguins advance a further 15m and, as the Blues were sucked into stopping the drive, a group of Penguins peeled off, boshing their way to the line. With the conversion, the Penguins went up 14-7.
The Blues responded well but were ultimately unable to convert pressure into points. With an unreliable scrum Cambridge had no foundation on which to build and were forced backwards time and again by an aggressive Penguins’ defence. It was only because of a huge dump tackle by Ilia Cherezov that the Penguins didn’t score another try at the stroke of half time.
It was the Blues who began the second half the brighter. In his first start of the season, Miles Daly gassed his way through a gap in the Penguins’ line and, after a series of slick off-loads, Jimmy Richards crossed the whitewash for a second time. The new Blues skipper also converted his try, leaving the two sides 14 a piece.
This parity was short-lived though. The Penguin forwards flexed their rucking muscles again and bulldozed their way up the pitch in a series of energy-sapping pick and drives. Fittingly, the eventual try was scored by the Penguin’s giant second row. A Farrell conversion put the Penguins further in the lead.
The visitors piled on the points after that. Following a prolonged stay in the Blues’ 22, wing Michael Roth scored in the corner, leaving the Blues starting down the barrel of a third consecutive defeat at 26-14.
Although the Blues never gave up the ghost, a lack of clean possession ultimately cost them, as a charged-down kick was picked up by the Penguins’ substitute wing who showed Dave Riley a clean pair of heels as he raced his way into the corner. The laser-like Farrell nailed the conversion and the scoreboard ticked over to 33 – 14.
Overall, the Blues were plagued by the same problems as last week. The good line breaks made by centres Burdon and Daly often came to nothing as balls were spilled and lost at the break-down. Moreover, the Blues’ scrum needs to shape up to provide the backs with a better platform.