Cambridge University 11pts – The Army 31
Funny old game. The Army opened strongly and at times were exhilarating. Quick ball, sure hands, lots of angles and pacey power rattled the score board for a 19 pts lead in as many minutes but the Cambridge Blues stood their ground and answered back.
The Blues showed they had power of their own. From an Army perspective the Students were as least as good as equal in the scrums. Bad turned to worse when an Army lock was Yellow carded. At that stage Cambridge comfortably delivered on their own lines-out and distribution was slick. Indeed the Students, whilst the ten minute yellow ran down, gained a distinct advantage and many showed strength and skills—and a try.
All that apart the Army fielded a team restructured right down the spine and across on the flanks. There were some dazzlingly bright spots in the Army’s first three tries. Centres Scott Watkins and Chris Leathem gelled at pace, the latter running in two tries. James Farrell scored the third.
The return after injury and a posting to the edge of the World enabled scrum half Morgan Evans to show what a live-wire he can be barking behind a pack that was, at best, still balancing on parity.
The back row lit up a cold night. Knoxy Laqekoro justified his 2015 reputation whilst No8 Sentiki Nayolo was arguably Man of the Match. He has been around in 7 RHA Cup-runs and Gunner circles for a couple of seasons but this was new. Direct and dynamic the Blues found it difficult to handle his pace and when confronted failed to subdue his power. Fiji hands and vision—it would be churlish to ask for more.
The second half said more about the Army bench than any Grand Design for fireworks rugby. Dave Bates behind props Turkish Titchard-Jones and Ricky Reeves, on the tight head, stiffened the sinews. Scores came from graft and taking opportunities, Mattie Dwyer grounding a winger’s try, whilst Cambridge picked up the tempo and attempted to build on the ‘yellow period’ try score in the first half. They pressed and presented chances for the Reds to show they could maintain structure and ‘hit hard’ in close defence. Maybe the Students settling for long range penalties in the final quarter said it all.
It would be stretching the imagination to say that Head Coach Andy Sanger looked pleased. More wistful, ruing the points that had been left on the park. He accepted it was a clinical win but wanted more of the opening quarter. “This is a new team. We are building on past success amidst considerable change and must recognise that the ‘intros’ have different talents”. He went on to say “I can see it. The makings are there but we are going to have to work hard to put the cream right on top of the cake. I am excited by the prospect”.
The overall impression on leaving Grange Road was that this was part [only] of a brand new Army team that produced a conclusive win. But, and you can sense this on the final whistle Andy Sanger was after more than a numerical victory
It follows for certain that places for Twickenham are up for grabs– and that is very exciting