Blues vs University of Queensland

RUGBY: The Blues once again fall at the final hurdle, making it three defeats on the trott.

Cambridge Cambridge Blues Cambridge Blues Rugby matt guinness-king Sam Hunt Scott Annett Tom O'Toole University of Queensland rugby

The Blues once again fell on the wrong side of a slender margin as the University of Queensland prevailed in a scrappy finish, with 22 points to the Blues 19.

Still without captain Matt Guinness King and up against hard-hitting, southern-hemisphere opposition, it was always going to be a difficult day for the Blues. But the game remained close to the end, and when Rob Stevens converted from Tom O’Toole’s try with under ten minutes remaining, hope that Cambridge may snatch an unlikely victory was renewed.

However, two tiring squads, heavy rain and a strong breeze meant the closing minutes of a fervent encounter were awash with handling errors and suspect kicking.

The Queenslanders bombarded the Cambridge defence from the beginning, coming perilously close to scoring a try after two minutes, only for their forward to be dragged into touch. Showing the sort of skill needed to bundle over Oxford 25 to 8, the visitors rode tackles and camped in the home side’s half for the first twenty minutes. Cambridge were unable control the game thanks to hesitant and unambitious clearances and a lack of width.

Eventually, the pressure was converted into points with Damon Holmes putting Queensland ahead, though William Tuffley failed to convert. It was only the Blues’ spirit and discipline which had kept the deficit as slim as 5 points as time ticked away. But soon after taking a superb high kick, O’Toole split open the Queenslanders’ defence and allowed Cambridge to romp downfield, before Rob Stevens landed a try. The move showed the attacking prowess the Blues housed but had struggled to unleash.

Though the conversion was missed, the home side were energized, gaining confidence and beginning to enjoy possession further upfield, leaving nearly fatally gaps, exposed but for a last-ditch Sam Hunt tackle. However, nobody could stop Jordan Chapman finishing a well-worked try which William Tuffley converted to give the Australian side a 7-point lead at the break, though Rob Stevens could have reduced it with a penalty.

There was no shades of the Blues’ first half caginess after the turn-around, however, and the home supporters were jubilant when the driving maul which had been so effective against Northampton drove up the middle and culminated in Will Briggs touching down, followed by Stevens coolly converting to leave the scores level once more.

Parity was short-lived as Queensland rebounded with vivacity, powering through ineffective tackles to give their strong support plenty to cheer about with an immediate response, scoring the visitors’ third try and converting to give them a 19-12 lead. It was then that the well-drilled discipline of Cambridge began to falter, and an offside penalty allowed Tuffley to extend Queensland’s lead to 10.

In the ensuing territorial wars there were plenty of up and unders as Cambridge tried to chase down the  Australians. As the weather worsened and the teams tired neither looked capable of forcing the issue until the indefatigable O’Toole combined expertly with Stevens to weave through Queensland’s defence and dive over to rejuvenate the tie.

But it would prove to be so close yet so far despite the best attempts of stand-in skipper Scott Annett to inspire his side, as though Queensland conceded penalties for handling the ball on the ground together with Stevens finding his range, Cambridge were unable to take advantage in the opposition’s 22.

With that their third consecutive defeat, the Blues will be gunning for a sharp turnaround in the next game: a local derby against Cambridge RFC in just 3 days’ time.