Blues vs Steele-Bodgers

Blues warm up for Varsity with a hard-fought victory at Grange Road

blues rugby curufc Guiness King OURUFC Paul Loudon Sam Hunt Sam Young Steele-Bodgers varsity match

Blues 17-14 Steele-Bodger XV

With the Varsity Match looming and two consecutive defeats preying on their minds, the Blues will have been very glad of this win over an extremely competitive Steele-Bodgers side.

At no stage did they produce their best rugby but, put under sustained periods of pressure, they produced the result when it mattered most.

After a difficult outing against the Saracens (to quote club secretary Paul Loudon: “We’ll just sweep the first half under the carpet, lessons learnt”) and the loss of captain Matt Guinness King to concussion, it was understandable that Cambridge should start slowly in front of the capacity crowd and the Steele-Bodgers had the early running.

A sustained period of pressure in the 22 bought them a penalty, but rather than going for the points they kicked for touch, showing their desire to keep the ball in hand rather than trusting the boot which they maintained all afternoon.

The Blues (playing in pink) challenge for lineout ball

However, the Blues’ defence held firm and it wasn’t long before they were able to forge opportunities of their own. They looked most dangerous in the early period when they shifted the ball wide quickly, with Will Smith twice breaking down the wing without quite being able to find the space to develop the move into a try-scoring opportunity.

The first half was essentially a tale of two well drilled defences, both sides probing, trying to gain headway upfront and through the backs but unable to move the play from the centre of the field. Both scrum halves, Blake and Peck, were having excellent games but the play remained too condensed to truly free the backs.

Just when it looked like going into half-time at 0-0, an anomaly after years of high-scoring meetings between the teams, Cambridge broke the deadlock. Kristian Cooke received the ball in midfield and Mat Thomas, moved from wing to centre after Guiness King’s concussion, ran an aggressive inside line. The pass was perfectly timed and the St. John’s man had the pace and feet to plough through to the line. Steve Townend added the extras with the last kick of the half and Cambridge went in with a lead they had just about deserved on the balance of play.

After an attritional first period the restart saw the game burst into life. An incredible minute saw both sides nearly touch down for a try within the first five after the whistle. First Thomas nearly added to his tally after latching onto a clever grubber, but was dubiously adjudged to have knocked on grounding the ball. Then from the five metre scrum the Bodgers broke through Thomas’ tackle and nearly sent their winger, Rokabarc, over in the corner after braking 70 yards. Both teams the proceed to bombard the other’s lines but it was Cambridge who cam away with points, Townend sticking over the three.

Another closely contested set-piece

10-0 in the ascendancy it looked like the Blues would push on for a comfortable victory, but the Bodgers’ half-back partnership of Peck and Stade Francais’ Plisson piled the pressure on, shifting the angles of attack and working the Blues’ fitness and structure.

They finally got their try when Tordjman managed to work himself a one on one in the midfield, sidestepped nimbly and raced through for the try. Plisson made it 10-7 and the Blues had a game on their hands.

Paul Loudon then sprung into life and gave Cambridge the injection they needed and Townend should have added another three from straight in front of the posts. Instead his penalty cannoned off the upright to leave the Bodgers within touching distance and they piled on the pressure.

This paid off when Sam Young collected the ball in his own 22 and gained 30 yards before offloading to start a flowing backs move, topped off by Smith in the corner, for a scintillating try.

Although the Steele-Bodgers replied quickly through Valencon, who showed good pace to bring his side back into it, Cambridge were able to hold on for a pleasing victory.

After their recent run of results, the team will be pleased to have recorded a win with Varsity approaching. Although the match was close, a challenge against a decent side, playing the sort of disciplined rugby we can expect from Oxford will have been of huge benefit to the Blues. When Guiness King returns to the side, they look well equipped to deal with whatever December 8th throws at them.