CURUFC have only lost the Town v Gown fixture twiceLouis Ashworth

Cambridge University 27

Cambridge Rugby Club 27

University Football Ground, Grange Road

A last minute try from Cambridge Rugby Club’s Gareth Baxter ensured that, for the first time in its history, the annual Town v Gown fixture ended in a draw in front of a sizeable crowd at Grange Road. CURUFC, fielding a relatively inexperienced team, with only six returning Blues and a number of debutants were looking to build on last week’s promising 28-28 draw against Durham while the Town sought to defeat the Light Blues for only the third time in their history.

Despite a frantic and breathless opening few minutes neither team was able to assert themselves as both struggled with their passing game. This would set the tone for the rest of the match, with neither side particularly convincing with ball in hand, both opted to use the strength of their packs to play a more direct style resulting in half of the tries scored coming from catch-and-drives in what was, by no means a vintage performance from either side.

The Light Blues opened the scoring in the fourteenth minute as one of the team’s debutants, Tyler Hammond peeled off from the back of a driving maul to score his first ever try for the University. Mike Phillips duly converted on what would ultimately prove to be a difficult night for both teams’ kickers. Another lineout nine minutes later resulted in another catch-and-drive, with prop, Andy Burnett, one of the few returning Blues, crossing the line to make it 12-0 to the Gown after 23 minutes.

Undeterred by their early deficit, Cambridge Rugby Club gamely fought back as the first half wore on, with Alex Rayment scoring for the visitors from yet another catch-and-drive, as this time the Town demonstrated the power of their forwards. Growing in confidence, they scored their second shortly after, with undoubtedly the attacking highlight of a first-half sorely lacking in any dynamic offensive play. Mike Stanway showed some of his blistering pace on the wing to step inside and break through the Blues’ defensive line to bring the score to 12-10.

Shortly before the end of the first half, CURUFC’s Nick Koster was sent to the sin-bin for a late tackle and their opponents took advantage of their extra man almost instantly, with Rayment scoring his second try of the half, once again from a rolling maul, as Cambridge Rugby Club took the lead for the first time. After two failed attempts earlier, Jack Green slotted over his first conversion of the match as the first half ended 17-12 to the visitors.

The match was dominated by the forwardsLouis Ashworth

The second half proved a much better spectacle, with both teams seemingly intent on retaining possession and moving the ball through the hands. Mike Phillips briefly restored parity for the Blues, chasing down his own hack after having seemingly lost control of the ball. The scores only remained level for four minutes before some strong ball carrying by Jamie Denver and some quick passing in the middle of the park freed up Matt Waring on the wing to score and restore Cambridge’s lead.

Denver was at the heart of the action again as he received a yellow card for persistent foul play but despite this, the Blues were unable to capitalise as Cambridge managed to remain a tight defensive unit and restrict CURUFC’s chances. It was only once Denver returned that the Blues managed to score, with number 8, Buchan Richardson taking advantage of a poor CRUFC lineout on the five-metre line to score his first of the game. Richardson soon had his second, picking up from the back of a scrum and scoring to give his side a 27-22 lead.

Just as the result seemed secured for the Blues, Gareth Baxter managed to chase down an attempted clearing kick by the University winger to rescue a dramatic last-minute draw for his team and to leave the CURUFC players visibly disheartened.

Speaking after the match, Blues head coach James Shanahan was critical of his side’s lapses in concentration and sloppiness throughout the game: “The little things we’ve done so well in the past two games we didn’t tonight, and I felt we lacked energy as a side.” He continued: “It would have been nice to get a win – any kind of win – to end that three-week block with a loss, a draw and a win but it wasn’t to be so it’s frustrating.”

CURUFC will face Northampton Saints and Trinity College Dublin in their next two fixtures as they look to build towards the Varsity Match at Twickenham in December.

Cambridge University: Amesbury, Russell, Triniman, Craib, King, Phillips, Tullie, Dean, Burnett, Somers, Rose, Beckett, Koster, Hammond, Richardson

Replacements: Huppatz, Briggs, Dixon, Leonard, Eriksen, Bell, Loftus, Griffiths, Hennessey.

Cambridge: Hart, Stanway, J Ayrton, Bannerman, Collard, Green, Peres, Peck, Rayment, Naqasima, Peters, Baxter, Carroll, Laxton, Waring

Replacements: Ruddock, Dever, Sully, Possain, Rodgers, Worrall-Clare, Kingdom, Ignarski

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