Northampton Wanderers walk over Blues
Triumph in last week’s Town v Gown didn’t last for rugby Blues, writes Ruairi Bowen, as they proved no match for Northampton
by Ruairi Bowen
Friday 12th October 2012, 16:05 BST
Northampton 49 - 13 Cambridge
Following an excellent 31-12 victory against Cambridge RFC last week, the Blues were brought back down to earth with a bump on a damp and drizzly Monday evening at Grange Road. They were outrun and outplayed by a young, slick Northampton Wanderers outfit, with England U19 full-back Tom Collins running in four tries.
Northampton were on the board inside three minutes as pressure in the Blues’ 22 led to a charge down and a try for skipper, Ben Nutley. Despite a near immediate riposte from the boot of scrum-half Seb Tullie, which the Saints were punished for offside, a loose kick and a poor kick-chase enabled Northampton’s back three to break clear, with Collins finishing off.
With Northampton a man down after repeated infringements, Tullie, making his first start for the Blues, hit his second penalty. But Cambridge would have hoped for more as they were camped on the Saints’ try line with a succession of powerful rolling mauls. The opportunity went begging, and the failure to capitalise on sustained pressure was punished by the Saints as Tom Stephenson scored under the post before half-time to make the score 6-21.
In the second half, the pace and precision of the Northampton outside backs proved to be too strong for the Blues, at a numerical deficit on the hour following Scott Annett’s yellow card. Four unanswered tries opened up a 43 point gap in proceedings before a penalty try two minutes from time added some respectability to the score line. There was commendable defence from centre pairing Dugal Bain and Danny Holmes, and a periodically dominant display from the forwards (characterized by the trademark bulldozing runs and thundering hits of Captain Rob Malaney). Yet this proved to be mere consolation in a game where the Blues were ultimately no match for this highly professional Northampton outfit; the final score 13-49.
The Town vs Gown match last week had marked the occasion of veteran second-row Scott Annett’s fiftieth appearance for the Blues. Speaking after the winning game, the Northern Irishman played down his achievement, focussing more on the significance of the result: “we needed a win coming off the back of a couple of losses in pre-season – we want to build momentum towards Varsity and today is step one”. Annett cited the need to improve on the first half performance, particularly at the breakdown, but was buoyant: “we have a fantastic coach who’s immediately made a huge difference. We’re in a good place: work to do, but you don’t want to be the finished article now.”
As thoughts turn towards the all-important Varsity match on December 6th, the Blues will be hoping to bounce back from this heavy defeat, starting with a trip to Ealing on Wednesday. For the next home game, played against Blackheath RFC on October 24th, they will hope to build on last year’s authoritative second-half display that saw them run out 24-18 winners.
If they can draw on the positives from their opening two games, in particular the force of the scrum – which proved too strong for Town rivals Cambridge RFC – they can set about establishing the momentum that will be crucial leading into the fabled ‘Battle of the Blues’ at Twickenham.