The width of the post secured Cambridge University a 23-22 win over a resurgent Crawshays Welsh XV in an entertaining match at Grange Road.
The Light Blues returned to their home turf for the first time in three weeks after a trip to Trinity College Dublin, where they were defeated 12-9.
The Crawshay’s squad had been selected, by their new Rugby Manager Jonathan Westwood, from Welsh and English club teams and had six emerging talents from the Dragons and Cardiff Blues Academy. Lots of new faces but there was also the familiar face of Mike Rayer, the Bedford Head Coach, who once again did a superb job of getting the squad to gel in the time it takes to drive up the M11.
With Cambridge University well prepped as they lead into their iconic Varsity fixture against Oxford University, the odds are always against our invitational team. However, it was only by the skin of their teeth that Cambridge secured a third victory of the Michaelmas Term though.
The young visitors started the game full of Crawshay’s gusto and young Dragon’s flyer James McCarthy dived over in the corner for the first try of the game after some great lead up play. Unfortunately the linesman had different ideas and after consulting the ref, ruled that McCarthy had been knocked into touch before touching down. The Crawshay VP’s who had settled in that very corner voiced a very different opinion. Although it was accepted later, that their view was partially obscured by former Crawshay’s Club Secretary Russel Jenkins (and former Queen’s College undergraduate) taking his seat, having been held up in Cambridge’s always hospitable pre-match gathering.
Not to be deterred the Crawshay’s fired back into the Cambridge 22 and this time Bedford Blues full back Charlie Reed crossed the whitewash in the same corner for the first try of the game. Again, the same linesman signalled his desire to help the referee adjudicate the legality of the score. As before the try was disallowed and the Crawshay’s VP’s in that corner, who were now at full compliment, voiced their disapproval of the decision. With one VP light heartedly suggesting the linesman may be taking an unorthodox approach to the repayment of his Classics and Philosophy Bursary!
The score remained 0-0 and then the students began to assert their authority on the match.
The first try was not long in arriving after Crawshay’s early attempts. It came as play was worked out from a scrum, and a great popped pass by Lovelace saw Tom Mullaney hit the perfect line to burst through and score. Mike Phillips added the conversion.
A little over 10 minutes later, Jemphrey scored the leading contender for try of the term so far.
The winger picked up possession inside his own half on the right and then cut inside, past up to five should-be tackles before straightening up to touch down beneath the posts. Phillips’ extras made it 14-0 and he then landed a penalty to extend their advantage.
The students had been impressive in the way they controlled the half, and of equal note is the competition developing for places on the flanks.
Ollie Smart and Ali Broughton were starting against Crawshays having enhanced their prospects in Ireland, in an area of the team in which Tom Walton, Sean McMahon and Archie Smeaton have also caught the eye in previous matches.
After a penalty a piece the half time score was 17-3.
The Crawshay’s dug deep in the second half to chip away at the scoreboard. They started to turn the screw through their forwards, and got a try back through replacement scrum-half Dafydd Buckland sniping on the line, with Lloyd’s conversion making it 20-10.
Phillips gave the Light Blues some breathing space with a long-range penalty, but Crawshays were not fading away.
They stepped up their comeback with six minutes remaining as the attriotional nature of the game led to Newport’s Corey Howells powering over the line, and Lloyd kicked the extras to make it 23-17.
Then continued pressure from the Crawshay’s having used the full force of their bench and in the last play of the game, were rewarded with a try from young Dragon’s hooker Will Griffiths.
It narrowed the deficit to one point, but with Evan Lloyd using the full allowance of his time for the conversion, the fly-half was faced by a charging cavalry of Light Blues and ended up striking the upright with his kick, and the ball bounced out rather than through the posts.
The outcome was perhaps a little unlucky on the visitors for their second-half endeavours, but equally a due reward for the students for an impressive first half.
Crawshay’s Rugby Manager, Jonathan Westwood, commented on the performance ‘it was obviously heartbreaking at the end not to get the win but it was equally pleasing to come out at half time and dominate proceedings and get so close. We played lots of good rugby in the first half and didn’t quite get our reward but second half we quite clearly a different story. Mike Rayer has done a great job again of getting the players to gel so quickly and that shone through in the performance.’
Cambridge University: Gatus; Lovelace, Mullaney, Mackle, Jemphrey; Phillips, Gliksten; MacCallum, Huppatz, Harborne, Beckett, Horwill, Smart, Broughton, Leonard.
Replacements: Schusman, Collins, Cook, Smeaton, McMahon, Walton, Saunders, Laing, Elms.
Crawshays Welsh XV: Reed (Bedford Blues); Davies (Blackheath), Jacobs (Llandello), Payne (Aberavon), McCarthy (Dragons); Lloyd (Dragons), Maynard (Llandovery); Lavender (Bargoed), Tanner (Moseley), Evans (Pontypool), Powell (Bargoed), Io Jones (Neath), R Jones (Treorchy), Nash (Pontypool), Ie Jones (Pontypool).
Replacements: Griffiths (Dragons), Peddle (Cross Keys), Warren (Cardiff Blues), Mattravers (Bedwas), Reid (Newport), Buckland (Dragons), Penny (Dragons), Howells (Newport).
Scorers: 15min Mullaney try – Phillips con (7-0), 28 Jemphrey try – Phillips con (14-0), 37 Phillips pen (17-0), 40+2 Lloyd pen (17-3), 43 Phillips pen (20-3), 63 Buckland try – Lloyd con (20-10), 68 Phillips pen (23-10), 74 Howells try – Lloyd con (23-17), 80+4 Griffiths try (23-22).
Referee: Veryan Boscawen