Blues hold on for draw

Richard McLauchlan - Sports Reporter 6 November 2009

Rugby Union – Cambridge 19 Crawshays 19

On Wednesday night Grange Road saw an under-strength Blues hang on for a 19-19 draw against Welsh invitational side, Crawshay R.F.C. Cambridge enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges as the forwards competed physically at the breakdown providing a strong platform for the back line, whose early performance was unfortunately characterized by wasteful kicking. Cambridge’s domination was rewarded when Will Jones broke through a line out on the Crawshay’s 22 only to be hauled down just short of the try line; fortunately he was on hand two phases later to receive a superb flat pass from number 10, Ross Broadfoot, and touchdown in the right hand corner for the opening score of the game. Crawshay’s responded positively when only minutes later they broke back by catching the Blues defence flat-footed with a chip that eluded the Cambridge scrum half, Doug Rowe, and allowed the Crawshay centre, James Thomas, in behind to level the scores. After an impressive conversion, Cambridge managed to hold the Crawshay offensive with a break away from Greenwood, offloading to number 25, Freddie Shepherd, who showed exceptional strength to cross the white-wash.

The next ten minutes saw a number of narrow escapes for Cambridge in the face of some very fluid rugby from the opposition. Despite numerous offences at the break down, the Blues managed eventually to cross for another try, this time with an exceptional run from number 12, Sandy Reid, impressively finishing off a move he started just past the half way line. This left Cambridge 12 points clear going into half time. They were, however, fortunate to be so, given their continual struggles at the set piece and their persistent infringement at the break down.

The second half without doubt belonged to Crawshay’s. There was a definite change in mood amongst the Cambridge team. After the give and take between the teams in the first half, it was surprising to see the Blues so immobilized by a reinvigorated and dynamic Crawshay’s. It was no shock, then, when the visitors broke through the Cambridge midfield shortly into the half for a try to bring them tantalizingly close to the Blues’ lead. Spurred on by their control of possession and territory, the Crawshay’s produced some impressive attacking rugby, with the pressure finally telling for Cambridge as their line out gave way to the try that was to bring the scores level; unsurprising for a team who spent so much time without the ball.

The Blues have a lot to take away from this fixture however. The forward pack was certainly aggressive, competitive at the break down, and dogged in defence for the full 80 minutes, particularly around the fringes. The set pieces were not quite so successful. The lack of Vickerman in the line out was painfully obvious, and the strength of the scrum was most definitely called into question. The back line meanwhile, despite its moments of inspiration, seemed static throughout the game and was often found lacking in defence. This permeability against the Crawshay’s attack was hindered further by their lack of imagination during open play, which seems a shame given their obvious ability to run the ball effectively at pace. Yet there were performances of note. James Greenwood looks a constant threat with ball in hand but is so often a bit-part player isolated on the right wing. It would be fascinating to see him attacking of his wing and causing defensive headaches for opponents in the midfield. Captain Will Jones led the side valiantly with his impressive work rate and notable physical impact.

All in all, there will be plenty to chew over in the weeks leading up to the Varsity match. If the Blues are able to remedy their weakness in the set piece and use their running strength to their advantage in the backs then there’s every reason to hope for great things over the coming weeks.

Richard McLauchlan – Sports Reporter