Jesus vs John’s

RUGBY: RUPERT MERCER gives you the full match report on John’s smashing of Jesus.

Ben Wilson Cuppers el clasico George Hunter jesus rugby Joh's rugby league title nick michelmore Nick Roope redboys rugby league

Jesus 17- 36 St. John’s

With this drubbing of their nearest competitors, John’s have sent out a message to the rest of Cambridge – the Redboys are back.

After losing twice to their arch-rivals last season and in so doing losing the League title they had held for almost a decade, George Hunter’s men had a point to prove when they came up against the men in red and black again.

The talk before the match had been of pride in the badge and the hurt of last season’s defeats and from the kick-off the Redboys seemed to be the men who wanted it more.

The day had actually looked set for a classic Jesus performance, warm and dry to give their legendary back line the chance to open their legs, but in a strange tactical move they chose to repeatedly kick away possession at the start of the match and gave the red juggernaut a foothold in the match.

It did not take the Redboys long to get their noses in front. After a long period of pressure from consecutive 5-metre scrums (where Jesus captain Roope was lucky to avoid conceding a penalty try) they chose to take the option of the line-out. The decision was the correct one – a neat take and rolling maul sending second row, Charlie Emerton over, with Cliffe missing the conversion.

Jesus were looking uninspired in attack, but this was due principally to the wonderful work being put in by the John’s back row at the rucks, slowing the ball down and ensuring that Jesus’ backs were fed only on slow ball.

John’s next try revealed what was to be the dominant theme of the afternoon – terrible fringe defence by Jesus. When John’s no.8, Kelly, received the ball outside the 22 there seemed to be no immediate danger but with barely a sidestep, the Jesus defence parted their red-and-black sea and Kelly got his head down to finish well. The score was 12-0 after a simple conversion.

John’s grabbed another before half-time after Ben “Boyband” Wilson split an equally porous Jesus defence before tying the full-back, Marron (admittedly one of Jesus’ stand-out performers) up in knots. Had it not been for a lazy forward pass from Pete Stovall minutes later it could have been more.

Photos by Manon van Thorenburg

While John’s dominated, Jesus were unable to put together a single sustained period of pressure in their opponents’ 22. However, they will be ruing the missed penalties by fly-half, Tamhara, the hero of last year’s game, which could have sent them in at 19-12, rather than 19-3.

Just when it looked like the match was as good as over, John’s hooker, Calvert, committed the most obvious piece of offside interfering any of the crowd will ever see on a rugby pitch, jogging back and reaching into the Jesus side of the ruck to retrieve the ball on his way. He was given a yellow card for his troubles seconds before the whistle blew.

Emboldened, Jesus pushed on, trying to turn their water into wine. Soon Tanhara went some way towards atoning for his misses from the tee, breaking the line twice with jinking runs, the second of which took him over. He added the points for 19-10 and Jesus looked right back in it.

But with the ten sin-bin minutes up and numbers even again Jesus never looked like having enough in defence. So it proved, as two more pieces of lax discipline – the first, a missed tackles, the second, a bizarre juggling of the ball in the 22 – sent Kelly through for two more to complete his hat-trick, giving John’s the four-tries bonus point and denying Jesus a losing bonus, considerations which may well tell at the end of the season.

Meanwhile the referee had gone card happy, sending off Calvert after a second booking for repeated infringement and binning Exton for Jesus.

All this detracted somewhat from what was an excellent John’s performance. Their backs ran solid lines all day and used the space which the forwards worked so hard to create. Jesus will be particularly concerned about defensive lapses and some very hard work will have to be put in on the training ground to reverse this scoreline when they travel to John’s in three weeks time.

Speaking to The Tab afterwards, Redboys captain George Hunter was delighted with the result. He said: “That was a decent Jesus side today, but the passion of the Redboys shone through. I’m so proud of all the lads, I don’t think I’ll stop smiling for a week.”

He walked off shouting something about a session, so to anybody in Cindies tonight, watch out for John’s Bar – the Redboys are back.

Photos by Manon van Thorenburg