Cambridge Blues vs Cambridge RUFC

RUGBY: CONNOR TRAVERS watches the Blues end their losing streak in rugby’s Town vs Gown.

Blues Cambridge RUFC curufc David Allen Emmanuel Akinluyi grange road Rugby Scott Annett Tom O'Toole

Cambridge Blues 28 – 21 Cambridge Town

The Blues bucked their losing streak on Tuesday, in a confident defeat of local rivals Cambridge Town.

On the back of three successive losses, the Blues may have been worried going into the match. But they dispelled any worries with a confident result at the end of a testing week seeing, which saw them fall narrowly to  both Northampton Saints and the University of Queensland.

Right from the kick-off, the visitors’ full back stuttered underneath a deep kick, a weakness that continued throughout the match. A bungled town line-out later and the Blues were right on the offensive, building up several phases before hooker Nigel Conroy danced superbly round the dazed defence to land a try within the first 3 minutes. The reliable Rob Stevens converted to notch up a 7-0 early lead. Imbued with self-belief, the Blues began to dominate, gaining territory with measured kicking from Tom O’Toole and Stevens.

The town’s tactics were clear: play the ball from deep to make the most of their quick feet and sharp passing. But the Blues were able to pin the visitors’ back, wrestling possession and bulldozing to the try-line with the drive that seems to have become the pack’s trademark. Though Stevens was unable to convert from a tight angle, the 12 point lead was the least the home side deserved.

As the town began to catch the ball, their speedy wingers and talismanic inside-centre Will Lawson started to influence the game, and it wasn’t long before Lawson embarked on an enterprising run, side-stepping ineffective tackles before a beautiful back one-two left him with the ball to score a try. Adam White bagged a difficult conversion, but the University responded magnificently, once more exposing the town’s susceptibility to a high catch: a feeble attempt gifting John’s outside-centre Mathonwy Thomas possession to offload to fly-half Greg Cushing who ran in an immediate reply, though Stevens failed to convert.

The visitors’ were rattled, and continued to shell straightforward catches, allowing Thomas to win a penalty. Stevens scored it, stretching the lead to 20-7. With half time approaching, the town for the first time exercised consistant pressure deep within the Blues’ half, foregoing 3 penalties in a desperate search for a try. Just when it seemed inevitable, pugnacious flanker Emmanuel Akinluyi’s spirited defence turned over possession, protecting the Blues’ 13-point cushion at half time

Keen to avenge their 34-21 defeat last year, the Blues’ forwards were the stars of the second half, as Akinluyi, Ollie Wolfe and David Allen thwarted the visitors’ passing technique, slamming the wingers into touch whenever they threatened to cut loose. The University’s scrum endured and after winning another penalty, Stevens stretched their lead to 16 points.

The margin took the wind out of the oppositions sails, and Stevens capitalised, executing a perfectly-weighted kick down the left flank for him to latch on to after a favourable bounce, running in the Blues’ fourth and best try.

With little to play for the town finally re-awoke. Still stubbornly refusing to kick from deep, they stole two very late tries from a Blues side whose minds were clearly elsewhere, both converted resulting in a generous final score of 28-21.

Despite the sloppy defending late on, the manner of the victory would delight the Blues’ management and their skipper Scott Annett, who speaking afterwards declared that he was: “absolutely shattered, but so pleased with the result. Knew we could do it.” With Blackheath up ahead next week, the Blues will be looking to build on a great all-round performance.

Photographs courtesy of David Ponting