Saints go marching in!

Sebastien Ginet -Sports Reporter 15 October 2009

Saints go marching in!

Cambridge struggled in a cold evening against a dominant Northampton Wanderers. The Saints scored eleven tries while the Blues only managed to put two away as the match finished with a shameful 73-14.

In the lead up to the match the Blues were on a three game winning streak, demonstrating their ability to create a fluid style of play as well as a strong and organised defence.  It seemed last night that the Blues had forgotten these two key features and the irksome fact that rugby happens to be a team sport.

Although eleven Northampton tries were shared between seven players, it was ex-Cambridge student Joe Ansbro who really shone for the Saints.The former Robinson-man picked up a hat-trick, with his creativity of movement highlighting serious flaws in the Blues’ game.

The first minute of the game was a good illustration of these flaws:  Cambridge kicked off; the Saints intercepted the ball, passed it out several times on the way to their fabulous winger Ansbro, who scored. Not a good start. This particular play was an early sign of the Blues passivity against a well ordered side and of a continued inability to start playing at the first whistle.This was one of the habits of last season, conceding tries in the first five minutes of a game, and on Monday night it seemed as though Cambridge had failed learn from past mistakes.

Less than three minutes into the game, the Saints had already scored twice. It looked like only one team was on the Grange Road pitch and the other still in the locker room.

The University team came back into the game in the fifteenth minute when Broadfoot intercepted the ball at a Saints set piece and ran it in below the post for the Blues first try. But the domination of Northampton was again too much to handle for Cambridge and it allowed the Saints to put themselves ahead 33-7.

Just before half time, the Blues showed some ‘French flair’ in scoring a beautifully constructed try which allowed them to get slightly back on track at 33-14.

The second half however was a washout.Cambridge simply could not cope with the Saints’ shape, style and determination. Ansbro embodied the Saints’ ability to out-think the students, choosing his lines with perfection. During his time at Cambridge, Ansboro attracted the attention of the Saints for his classy displays in successive Varsity matches, in particular the 2006 Cambridge win in which he outshone Oxford’s rugby legend Joe Roff in the centre to help Cambridge take the win.  So for the Nat-Sci grad it was a return to familiar territory and it certainly looked like he knew exactly where to go on the Grange Road pitch. It was too easy for Northampton, whose performance increasingly had the air training ground warm-up, and somewhat humiliating for the Blues.

Throughout the last forty minutes, the Saints proved that they could score from anywhere, even coming from their own 22 three times to demonstrate the extent of their domination. They scored 40 unanswered points and it seemed that the Blues were nothing more than a junior team facing professionals.

Despite a number of thumping tackles, put in by Captain Dan Vickerman, the University was out-passed and outclassed by a superior professional side.  The poor performance raised several questions that the Cambridge coaches, as well as Vickerman, will have to answer during the course of the week.  The most critical is their unwillingness to take the game to their opponents. The Blues must follow the lead of Dan Vickerman and hooker Patrick Crossley if they are to avoid further embarrassment in the upcoming game against Saracens.

Fitness is also a major problem for the Cambridge team as they looked exhausted just five minutes into the second half and as a result could not build any plays.

In the last forty minutes they had to kick the ball almost every time they had it. Tactical knowhow appeared equally lacking, and this is where Vickerman will be crucial for the future of this 2009-2010 Cambridge University Team.

The Blues were beaten by a better and stronger team, but Monday night games are about so much more than winning or losing, they are about getting ready for the Varsity on December 10th. Showing such important flaws at this stage of the season hopefully means that the squad will be hardened and much more mature in two months time.

The Blues will be hoping for a return of form next week against the Saracens, which will be crucial for their confidence as well as for their image because if they continue to perform in their current vein, people might start to wonder if this is not the worst team Cambridge has seen in at least a decade.

Sebastien Ginet -Sports Reporter