The win was only Cambridge's second of the seasonAngus Parker



Led by rampant flanker Matt Watson, Cambridge edged out the British Police in a try-fest at Grange Road.  It was an important win for the Light Blues – only their second of the season after a rocky, injury-plagued start to the year –boosting morale ahead of next month’s Varsity match. 

The game had started ominously, with the Police opening the scoring in under five minutes.  Crisp passing from a lineout ten metres inside the Cambridge half set the visitors’ outside centre through the Light Blues’ defensive line.  He committed the fullback, then spun a perfectly timed pass out to the left-winger who breezed over untouched in the corner.  The fly half missed the conversion, but it was a menacing statement of intent.

Cambridge, though, came screeching straight back.  A bullocking run from number eight Buchan Richardson set the Light Blues up on the edge of the Police 22, and after several phases of patient build-up flanker Matt Watson came steaming onto the ball, blasted through three defenders and crashed over the line.  Three minutes later, man-of-the-match Watson turned creator, deftly offloading to outside centre Archie Russell to give Cambridge the lead, 14-5. 

Those opening ten minutes set the tone for the rest of the match, with both sides seemingly able to score at will.  After fifteen minutes Cambridge extended their lead, prop Will Briggs scooping up a loose ball after a maul had collapsed and stretching over the line.  But the Police fought back.  They won a succession of penalties in the Cambridge half, and, perhaps sensing that this was going to be a high-scoring game, each time they opted to kick for the corner, gunning for a try rather than just three points.  And their aggression was rewarded when one of many rolling mauls finally rumbled over the Cambridge try line.  An excellent conversion from the far left touchline by the visitors’ fly half meant that Cambridge led by nine points with a quarter of the game played.

That set the stage for arguably the finest moment of the match.  An encouraging spell of Light Blue possession in the Police 22 after the restart was disrupted when the visitors managed to force the ball loose at a ruck and hack it clear.  Collecting the bobbling ball ten metres inside his own half, Cambridge fullback Charlie Amesbury slalomed past three defenders then slipped a pass to the omnipresent Watson, thundering onto the ball on his inside shoulder.  Having battered over one defender, he raced to the 22 before zipping the ball to inside centre Jake Hennessey, who fended off the Police fullback with an outstretched arm to fight the way over the line.  The Light Blues had flown 60 metres down the field without being brought down once, and now led 28-12. 

Next up for CURUFC is the Steele-Bodger MatchAngus Parker

The Police refused to buckle, though.  Helped by loose Light Blue discipline, they scored two tries before halftime; the first from a dominant scrum 5 metres out, the second the product of a series of zippy passes whisking the ball from wing to wing.  Two difficult conversions nervelessly slotted between the uprights meant that, for all their attacking brilliance, Cambridge led by just two points at half time. 

The visitors carried their momentum into the second half; a brilliantly timed pass from the fly half, taking the ball from the back of a scrum, found the fullback careering onto the ball at breakneck speed.  He found a gap in the defensive line, and was barely touched before dotting the ball down under the posts.  

Cambridge eventually replied, an angled run edging left wing Henry King over the line to reward a long spell of pressure in the Police 22.  Another successful conversion from fly half Mike Phillips nosed the Light Blues back ahead with twenty minutes to play. But following the try, the hosts made a spate of substitutions, and it seemed to hand the Police the initiative.  The visitors’ pack was now considerably heavier than that of their opponents, and they took full advantage, using a series of punchy ‘pick and go’s to roll deep into the Cambridge 22.  The Police scrum, solid for the whole match, now became dominant, and they were awarded a penalty try after the Light Blues’ pack had been repeatedly penalised.

That made the score 40-35 to the Police with just thirteen minutes to play.  If it looked like the visitors’ were headed for victory, though, the Light Blues had other ideas.  They marched into their opponents’ half, won a penalty and kicked to the corner.  From the lineout a wall of Light Blue bodies battered their way over the line, and Hennessey, kicking instead of Phillips, who had hobbled off with a leg injury minutes over, squeaked the conversion just inside the left-hand upright.  The Police came roaring back, but Cambridge held out for the last six minutes – including several roaring, sinew-straining scrums – to secure a thrilling victory.

Lock Nick Koster, captain for the night, feted the character the team had shown in getting over the line after several narrow defeats earlier in the season, but emphasised that there was still plenty to be done before the Varsity match in just over three weeks’ time.  Due to injury, he said, ‘this was the first time the full pack played together all season, so it’s really important that we work hard over the next few weeks to learn to work as a team’.

The team will hope to continue its upward trajectory next week against Steele Bodger, their final game before the season-defining tilt against Oxford at Twickenham on 7 December. 

Cambridge: Amesbury (c), R. Triniman, A. Russell, J. Hennessey, H. King, M. Phillips, C. Bell, W. Briggs, A. Burnett, J. Dixon, A. Hunter, N. Koster, M. Watson, S. Leonard, B. Richardson

British Police: Hacox, A. Davies, S. Phillips, C. Roddy, K. Tayler, D. Preece, C. Aldham, I. Gerrard, T. Moody, J. Mills, Llyr Griffiths (c), S. Rutledge, A. Bryans, S. Johnson, R. Moffat

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