Unhappy Feet: Penguins unbeatable in mud

Phil Brook - Sports Editor 5 February 2010

Rugby Union: Blues 14 Penguin IRFC 35

Heroics from captain Jimmy Richards on Wednesday. He took all fourteen of Cambridge’s sorry points, but ultimately proved insufficient to match the power of the Penguin pack. After their drubbing last week by the British Army, the Blues were eager to get their season back on track against a scratch invitational side.

The match opened to two evenly matched sides, Cambridge’s backs proving more penetrating, whilst the Penguin pack gained a marginal advantage at the scrum, edging the Blues backwards. Yet until the rain intensified the two balanced each other out.

Cambridge had the better of possession and territory, yet it took twenty minutes to break down the solid visitors’ defence. A charge down by Ben Wilson offered the first opportunity, but it was quickly stifled by the Penguin pack.

Only a series of clever offloads broke the deadlock, Dave Riley breaking through down the wing before launching the ball out of the tackle into the arms of supporting runner, Jimmy Richards, crossing the line to take the Blues into the lead, and then converting to propel Cambridge into a 7-0 lead.

Penguins were quick to reply however, pulling together impressively for a side which had met for the first time only hours before, piling on the pressure through some excellent carries by the powerful front five. In spite of the rain, the powerful Penguin forwards combined with the boot of 10, Howard Graham, pushed Cambridge back.

A rolling maul, offloading to twelve, Sam Viggers almost put the Penguins over, and his offload to oncoming George Krus was too much for the now stretched defence, piling over for an excellent try.  Converted effectively, the scores levelled out at 7 all, however the Penguins came back again, powering into the Blues’ pack. A break by Graham from the back of a maul snuck through the defenders to secure a Penguin lead. The half degenerated as the weather ruined the handling, seeing a plethora of scrums, the only glimmer showing in a second beak by Riley, although again it died out as Penguins hurried back to plug their defence.

The second half opened to heavier rain than ever, yet Cambridge came out the better of the two sides.

Whilst squandering one opportunity, Henderson downing it on the wing, another break, led by full back, James Greenwood and followed up by Riley and Richards gave Cambridge the reward for their pressure, going level again with Richards’ second conversion.

Yet the Blues bogged down, playing scrappy rugby and increasingly allowing the Penguin pack to dominate, their experience showing as they continued to press, pinning the Blues back until try for Saracens’ Owen Farrell restored their lead.

The Penguin style, dominating the forwards proved ideal for the weather, whilst the handling moves of the first half died out in the mud.

Penguins pressed the Blues line, before Miles Rush on the wing crossed to consolidate their lead. A Penguin cross field kick finished the scoring, soaring over the try line, into the arms of Chris Rose to put Penguins out of sight.

The match ended 14-35, a score skewed by the weather as the evenly matched sides fared very differently.

It is to be hoped that this run of defeats does not play on Cambridge minds in the lead up to their clash next week with the RAF.

Phil Brook – Sports Editor