Blues vs Durham

Cambridge come up short against a strong Durham side. MICHAEL ALHADEFF was there to see where it went wrong.

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Defeat in Varsity hurt, but defeat against Durham on Saturday only added to the sense of punishment the Blues have endured this season. Durham may not be Oxford, but they are still a team the Blues would rather like to see the back of. It is this sense of ambition which will hopefully drive the Blues forward into next season.

In truth, this fixture is always hard to judge. The aftermath of Twickenham has meant all the momentum has gone from the Blues campaign as they head into a period of transition. They will want to reassess how they do things as they make preparations for the season ahead. Durham, on the other hand, are currently mid-season and displayed good value for their victory in the end.

The first half was definitely a case of trying to run-off the excesses of the festive period – the additional helping of granny’s turkey now looked like an ill-advised choice. It contributed to a topsy-turvy half where Durham were able to move into the ascendency immediately with two tries within the opening minutes of the match. Indeed, it looked as though the Blues were still slumbering at the Christmas table.

Durham appeared to be enjoying a late Christmas present as they ripped through the Blues at will, with big lock Beaumont particularly enjoying himself as he crashed over for Durham’s second try. He added some real quality to the field and proved a threat throughout the match as he always looked to take the ball over the gain line. It looked as though Durham would find points cheaper to come by than the bargains on offer in the January sales.

But the Blues had selected many who had lined up at Twickenham and it was clear that they didn’t want to face double humiliation. With their first territory of the match, they started to put the Durham defence under pressure. A quick thinking penalty allowed Martin to score out wide. The momentum was now with the Blues as Cushing made a pulsating move down the middle, only to stumble when the move was about to develop. Stevens was starting to get his hands on the ball more. With the Blues increasingly occupying the opposition 22, the Durham penalty count started to build. However, it looked as if the Blues had wasted their opportunity as a series of moves failed to produce anything. Durham though couldn’t escape and the Blues soon got their second try.

With the match closer to parity, the intensity increased. Several scuffles broke out across the pitch – no doubt players took the opportunity to debate their admission to Oxbridge. Durham’s discipline was failing them and they had a player sent to the bin. This time the Blues took their opportunity and ex-Durham captain Loudon went over to reduce the gap to two at the break.

Unfortunately for the Blues, the second half started very much like the first. It was that man Beaumont again as he crossed over for his second try. This heralded another period of sustained Durham pressure as the Blues struggled to reassert themselves. Durham took the opportunity to build on their lead. Having already gone further behind, they found themselves down to 14 men as it was their turn to experience a lack of discipline. Again Durham took the fullest opportunity to punish the Blues as countless were in support to go over the whitewash. A late consolation try by the Blues – their first points of the half – didn’t detract from the fact that they were outplayed for most of the half.

It is clearly to next season that the Blues have already focused their attention.