Nottingham 56 Cambridge 0
The Cambridge ladies travelled to Nottingham University for their first away BUCS match of the season, and their third match in eight days. Academic commitments and a handful of injuries to key players meant that Cambridge were forced to field a very inexperienced side, with only two returning Blues and 3 girls playing in their first ever rugby match.
From the start, Nottingham proved to be a physical, organised, and well-drilled team. For the first 15 minutes of the match their powerful ball carriers cut the Cambridge defence to pieces, inevitably breaking the first, second, and sometimes even third tackle, resulting in 4 tries in quick succession. This was obviously going to be a steep learning curve for the squad’s newest players.
During this period Cambridge seemed shell shocked and behind the pace of the game. They were slow up in defence, too high into contact, and meek at the breakdown. However, realising that they would be blown completely off the pitch if they didn’t increase their intensity, the experienced members of the team began to galvanise the entire squad. The defensive line began to move up more quickly, tackles started coming in low and hard, the breakdown became more competitive, and Cambridge managed to hold on to possession for a significant amount of time.
Although Nottingham managed to score three more well worked tries, as the half came to a close Cambridge threatened the Nottingham line for the first time with a period of strong ball carrying by their forwards, before the ball was spun out to the backs. The score at half-time was 41 – 0.
In the second half, Cambridge built upon the platform that they had established at the end of the first half. The first 20 minutes of the half was an arm wrestle in the middle of the pitch between two evenly matched sides. The Cambridge defensive line worked efficiently to shut down oncoming Nottingham attacks, while a number of incisive runs from the Cambridge backs were only stopped by some scrambling defence from Nottingham.
As the half wore on, fatigue started to set in, and Cambridge once again started to miss tackles. Phenomenal defensive work by Jenny Hawkin stopped a number of breakaways by the Nottingham centres. However Nottingham eventually finished the match with three more tries. While the magnitude of the defeat will be of some concern, the Cambridge ladies can take heart from the way that they worked themselves back into the game. Their second half performance, against a larger and more experienced team, was outstanding, and the leadership that was shown on the pitch in the absence of a lot of experienced players was commendable.
Photo: David Jones