Cambridge University 5 — 63 The Army
Amidst rain, rain, more rain and a howling wind the Grange Road ground staff produced a first class pitch for rugby. And, equally importantly, both teams tried to play a game where running and enterprise would pay a dividend.
The Varsity fielded a full set of ‘Blues’ backs, signalling their intention to attack. They went ‘snap, crackle and pop’ from the whistle but, into the wind, were not actually making a great deal of headway. When mistakes arose the Army sensibly hoofed anything loose into the ‘22’ for a sizeable Army land grab.
Heavyweight sparring was always going to be ‘advantage Army’ and the Reds opened up on 4 mins when No8 Sam Richardson thundered off the back of a well driven scrum. This was to be a key feature as the Army front row provided the nudge at successive scrums.
Around the hinge, flash quick service by Dominic Shaw at scrum half put James Dixon on the front foot. Centres Tinny Hiscock and Samisoni Raloka were in carrying mode and frequently ‘went for the bang’—successfully.
No ball carrier was left isolated and with a sense of space and timing, the last University defender was left to face two—on—one. Even with the line beckoning no one, but no one, failed to make the scoring pass.
In a fast game the pack showed a willingness to drive forward for ruck position. Quick support produced ball and territory. Power station’s Dave Bates and Ronan Bulger were highly mobile, the former scoring a thunder-try on 70 mins.
Down 22pts—nil at half time it was a question of how well the Varsity could use the second half wind. They did thrash the ball down field only to find Ray Bishop and Ratu Naulago in the mood to counter-attack. To make matters worse Chris Budgen arrived at tight head. Shunted into the Rear Areas the Varsity started to wilt, conceded a penalty try and a winning ticket for the Bench Warmer’s Ball.
The Varsity forwards had played well as a pack and for long periods were a threat. No9 Harry Peck was effective behind continuously recycled ball which put the Red’s defence to the test. Bar one moment of aberration the sandbags held.
The feature of the second half was James Dixon four times breaking the line ‘shimmy style’ which led to two great tries. His development from Sapper Corps rugby has been the revelation of the season –so far.
Dave Bates, skippering on the night with great maturity, summed it up from an Army perspective. “Forget the 63 pts score line, look at the performance. The Army scored nine tries, played well front and back and used the conditions intelligently”.
Coach Axel Rees was happy– for the moment. “Many players laid down a marker towards Twickenham—none would be out of their depth against the RAF or Navy”.