Experience in the forwards told for Northampton as they ran out 59-7 winners against CURUFCAngus Parker

Cambridge University RUFC: 7

Northampton Saints Wanderers: 59

University Football Ground, Grange Road

On a cold night at Grange Road, perhaps the sternest test the Light Blues of Cambridge University RUFC (CURUFC) will face before the Varsity Match proved to be just so. Against a squad that boasted immense talent from front row to back three, the Blues put up a brave fight.

Northampton arrived in Cambridge meaning business. Amongst their ranks was Tom Wood, playing at blind-side flanker, a position at which he has appeared fifty times for England. Also facing Cambridge were the Pacific Islander pair of Ken Pisi and Nafi Tuitavake; the former was part of the Samoa squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup and the latter holds six caps for Tonga.

The tone for the game was set from kick off. An early clearing kick from Seb Tullie invited the forwards to make themselves known at the ruck but some neat handling had Saints threatening the Cambridge line. The pressure was unrelenting in the early minutes; the Aviva Premiership outfit's second string side sent pick-and-drive after pick-and-drive toward the try line. Hooker Reece Marshall was eventually the one to crash over from close range. A successful conversion attempt from James Grayson had Saints up early. Command of the game would never be relinquished.

Rory Hutchinson soon added to the scoring; some hard running by Saints' back line put pressure on at the ruck and a penalty was forthcoming. The ball was put into touch only metres out. From the ensuing line-out, Saints moved the ball inside and a deft chip saw Hutchinson touch down for his first score.

Heads seemed to go in the Cambridge ranks as from the resultant kick-off pressure was back on. A marauding Tom Wood brushed off Tullie and, despite being stood up somewhat by Charlie Amesbury, offloaded in the challenge to set Hutchinson loose for his second try, escaping the desperate attempt by King to prevent him from scoring. The onslaught continued almost unabated as Wood went over in the corner soon after to make the affair 26-0.

The deficit, however, seemed not to sap all the life from the Light Blues as, from the restart, CURUFC appeared determined to tell the tale differently. A strong chase from Henry King put Saints on the back foot and further strong defence in the Northampton half from Mike Phillips saw a scrum awarded to the home side. An early engagement from Saints had Cambridge in full flow, motoring through the phases on the 22, but an untimely forward pass brought to an end an otherwise promising attack in a half which went decidedly against the Cambridge. 

Cambridge were tenacious in defence in a much closer second half that saw Captain Charlie Amesbury go overAngus Parker

In the last minutes of the first half, Saints pressed home their advantage. Not long after Hutchinson was almost in for a third time, Wood went over once again to take the score to 38-0 at the break. The Light Blues had been penned in by the brute force and attacking prowess of Northampton; the class of players like Wood, Hutchinson, and Grayson at stand off, was too much for the home side to handle in the first half.

Coming out for the second half, Cambridge firmly shut the door on those in green and black. The Light Blues held out admirably until a penalty try went against them and with half an hour to go the score was up to 45-0.

The steely determination of Cambridge remained and their resolve was resolute. The inspired opening to the second half, dampened only by the penalty try, came to a crescendo when Nick Koster found Amesbury in space, darting in off the left flank, to quell fears of being held scoreless for the full eighty. The Cambridge captain extracted what was the loudest cheer of the night from the assembly at Grange Road as he broke clear and crossed the white wash. It was clear that the Light Blues had the wind in their sails: a further five points were agonisingly close but the ball went down and out of touch inside 5 metres of the Northampton line not long after Amesbury broke the duck.


Mountain View

Last-minute try ensures historic ending to Town v Gown

Incision was the name of the game in the second period for both sides: Cambridge narrowly avoided conceding a further two tries courtesy of a forward pass and an offside. The two sides insisted on playing at a frenetic pace and, despite the best efforts of Cambridge, Saints were soon over again. This time, after some direct running which demanded the very fiercest defence from fly half Mike Phillips, Alex Moon shrugged off a Cambridge man on the line to dive over and bring up the half century for the visitors. 

In the closing minutes, the grit of the Cambridge men was perhaps best exemplified by Phillips who bore the wrath of Northampton, putting his body on the line in such a fashion as to draw gasps from the crowd. The defence could not, however, hold out forever, despite such attempts at heroism. From a line-out in the game's dying moments Charlie Clare carried the ball over the whitewash to score the final try for Northampton.

When the full time whistle went, the score board displayed considerable damage: 59-7. Amesbury's try was the lone answer to the Northampton class. Against such a powerful outfit, one which ran with pace all night, the Light Blues acquitted themselves excellently and were done a disservice by the final score. A dogged and tenacious second half performance had kept the scores closer than in last year's iteration of the fixture, and all those who played - nine of whom turned out a year ago - left with their heads held high. 

After four tough home tests, CURUFC will look for their first win of the season away at Trinity College Dublin on October 14th as they continue preparation for the Varsity Match at Twickenham on December 7th.

Cambridge University RUFC: Amesbury (Capt.), King, Russell, Hennessey, Loftus, Phillips, Tullie; Briggs, Burnett, Dixon, Rose, Beckett, Koster, Leonard, Richardson.

Replacements: Huppats, Wilson, Somers, Eriksen, Hammond, Bell, Craib, Triniman.

Northampton Saints Wanderers: Furbank, Hutchinson, Tuitavake, Stephenson (Capt.), Pisi, Grayson, Mitchell; Beesley, Marshall, Painter, Peters, Moon, Wood, Allman, Nutley.

Replacements: Clare, Trinder, Hill, J Onojaife, Ryan, D Onojaife, Kessell, Estelles, Elliott, Dingwall.

Referee: Mr Andrew Smith

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