Rugby Union: Cambridge young guns triumphant

Nick Butler – TCS Sport 8 November 2012

Cambridge 57 Suffolk 0

Four tries in the first-half from winger Ross Elsby propelled Cambridge to a clinical victory over a plucky yet vastly inferior opposition.

The Under 21 development team took full advantage of a rare opportunity to play under the Grange Road floodlights as they outran and outfought their opponents in an eleven try mauling which underlined the club’s strength.

The signs were ominous for the visitors – a county representative team consisting predominantly of school-aged players – when Cambridge forced a turnover from the opening play, and with the hosts fired up and eager to impress the gulf in standard was apparent.

Flanker James Thompson emphasised the size difference and it was his charge which created the opening try – finished off beautifully by Elsby in the corner in what was to become the half’s recurring theme.

Suffolk showed that they would not capitulate with some tenacious defence and running play, but as belated Guy Fawkes celebrations reverberated around the stadium, Cambridge produced some fireworks of their own. Centre Will Burrow began a high-speed move which involved the whole back-line before Elsby once again beat his man in a try which brought cries of the “Under 21 Harlem Globetrotters” from the crowd.

With their speed and strength becoming all too evident, full back Ed Linford swept home before a rampant Elsby added his third and fourth tries in a sensational thirty-minute spell during which he utterly demoralised his opponent. Yet Cambridge tries weren’t all masterpieces; the side was also capable of scoring ugly as a try from a rolling maul made it 32-0 at the break with the game all but over as a meaningful contest.

The withdrawal of Elsby after half-time offered Suffolk some respite, and the visitors should be proud of their second-half performance. They refused to be disheartened and although narrowly failing to capitalise with a drop-goal and a penalty attempt they were rewarded when several heroic tackles prevented certain tries.

Yet the scoreboard never stayed still for too long and the hosts eventually scored five more times – with backs and forwards both profiting from fine attacking play.

The final score therefore reflects a contest in which Cambridge were simply too strong and too fast for their opponents. It was by no means perfection, with the number of missed conversions being one obvious area for improvement, but the signs are certainly promising for the future.

Despite the Blues team enjoying a rare week off, the performance of this team – as well as victories for the Under 21’s (against Bath) and the LX Club (against the Royal Navy) – underlines impressive depth and emphasises the fact that Cambridge Rugby is far from being a one-team squad.

Nick Butler – TCS Sport