Rugby Union: Blues 7 British Army 20
With the Armed Services Tournament matches awaiting them, the Army was looking to ruffle some feathers with their visit to Grange Road Wednesday night. And in truth, ruffle they did, with the Varsity champions made to look ordinary against an onslaught of raw power and pace that seemed to banish the all-pervading chill from recollection.
It was the Army who were quick to make an impact over the first 15 minutes with sustained pressure bringing about a penalty kick, expertly taken by Ed McNeil. The Blues, led by Jimmy Richards were quick to respond demonstrating an ability to distribute with precision across the backline, after some intense rucking. In their quest for greater width, Cambridge frequently found themselves stifled by an Army side adept at breaking down plays and a back row marked by their physicality. Left to feed off the scraps, it was through some great individual play that helped the Blues to fight back. Fred Burdon proved to be a gem in the back row showing some wonderful tactical nous and quick changes of pace, interplaying superbly with Ilia Cherezov to cut swathes through to the Army’s 22. Yet Cambridge failed to convert good passages of play into points, illustrated best by the unceremonious flattening of centre Dave Riley on the try line. A technically sound kicking game and an immovable back row defined the Army team, with pivotal steals and clearances undoing much good Cambridge work. Ed McNeil needed no invitation to convert a second penalty kick 42 minutes into the first half giving the Army side a 6-0 lead going into the second half.
The second half began with a brief lapse in attention from the Blues, rightly capitalized on by a direct, quick fire break down the left wing by the forces, Danny Coutts with the try which was duly converted by Tom Chennell. When dejection seemed to strike, it was the talismanic Vickerman that took the initiative, driving aggressively at the front row.
Calls of “up tempo” from the Army bench were enough to abate any real chance of a Cambridge fight back, with the powerful rucking of the Army side proving decisive alongside an abundance of pace on the wing.
It took a sloppy pass across the back line for Cambridge to get on the score sheet with impact substitute Miles Daley doing the honours.
Burden continued to be a thorn in the Army’s side, bringing drive and focus to a backline that frankly looked exhausted.
In the last 5 minutes, tactics seemed to be left on the side line as the Army’s forward pack went on an impromptu rampage that sealed the fate of the Blues, the final score being 20-7.
Jesus captain and try scorer Miles Daley admitted his frustration at the lack of reward for the Blues efforts: “we played some great rugby tonight but we were unlucky not to convert a lot of it to points”.
Though Blues fans will be disappointed with the outcome, the game did show some promising young talent on the fringes of the Blues side and a strength in depth that will come into its own as the season goes on.
Parin Shah – Sports Reporter