The Cambridge men's rugby Blues continued their mixed start to the season with a 29-12 defeat at the hands of Crawshay's Welsh XV on Wednesday. Lewis Bennett was at Grange Road.
The last time Crawshay’s Welsh came to Cambridge, they went away as the losers on a 30-19 scoreline. Would Cambridge repeat the win this year? No. The Light Blues played with style, speed, and in the spirit of the game – they simply struggled to deal with a speedy display from the Welshmen, who kept the pressure on, and punished the Light Blues for handling errors. Put simply – the Lion roared, the Dragon belched fire, and the Lion’s fur burst into flames.
The first try came within 21 seconds of kick-off – Crawshay’s kicked down the pitch, Cambridge fumbled the catch, and Jacobs intercepted to streak through the Light Blue line and score. Failing to convert the try, the scoreline sat at 5-0 at one minute in. Cambridge soon equalised, with Russell nipping in with the try while the Welsh were pinned down on the other side of the pitch- but a missed conversion by Hennessy failed to give Cambridge breathing space, with a further try for Crawshay’s at 11 minutes piling on the pressure.
At this point, fireworks broke out on the pitch. Not metaphorical ones – literal ones, as a firework display from St John’s playing fields lit up the sky. Just after the 20 minute mark, a Cambridge try looked possible, only to disappear as the ball was fumbled- to make matters worse for the Light Blues, Story went down with a knee injury, leaving them a man down for a few minutes.
The first half ended well for Cambridge, with a converted try from Troughton and Hennessey leaving the scoreline at 12-10 to Cambridge. There had been handling errors from Cambridge, which were then exploited by Crawshay’s, but things seemed to be looking up.
Then came the second half. Crawshay’s scored two tries within twenty minutes (the first scored by Burdon at 12, the second by Reid), with Lewis converting the first to put the scoreline at 22-12. The Crawshay’s fans got vocal in the stands, with one responding to some flash passing from the Welshmen with a bellow of “Champagne rugby!” Considering that this was the same fan who had yelled out “take the bloody points, you fool!” earlier in the half, whether this was meant as a compliment or an insult remains to be seen. By the 75th minute, Cambridge were on the back foot, with the players rushing back to defend the try line and stave off collapse – they ran and dived, and the Welshmen pushed, trying to find a crack.
Spelman found it, and Meek converted the result. 76 minutes in, the score line sat at 29-12. Bar a scrum in the 80th minute, it was all over. The whistle blew, the Welsh rejoiced; Cambridge reflected.
Cambridge acquitted themselves well. They played a clean game, and put in some good tries. Injuries have dealt the squad a bad hand, and there were flashes of brilliance throughout the match – but those flashes couldn’t make up for a lack of clinical play, and occasional fumbles which Crawshay’s ruthlessly exploited. The first try, for example, was a result of a handling error opening up a gap that the Welshmen duly broke through. Looking ahead to Varsity, the Blues have much to ponder – after the match, No.10 Jake Hennessey spoke of the need for a more clinical style, while team coach James Shanahan was optimistic, arguing that with belief and improving fitness, the team has a bright future ahead. Last night, we saw the makings of a very good Cambridge side – they weren’t entirely there yet, but the fundamentals were sound and there was a belief in their abilities. Next week’s match against the Police will be an important test – can they recover from defeat, and can they develop that clinical style which was so lacking last night? If they can, then there’s everything to play for.