The Light Blues were thwarted by a physically dominant Army side on Charlie Amesbury’s last appearance as CaptainDomininkas Zalys

Under the lights in the heart of Cambridgeshire, the Army unleashed hell on a youthful Light Blue outfit, overwrought by the physicality offered up by the visiting side. In his last game as Captain, Charlie Amesbury (Queens’), forced into the centres by injuries incurred within his team, left the field disappointed.

An injury to Andrew Craib (Queens’) saw Amesbury shift from the 15 jersey and Will Saunter (St John’s) step up from off the bench to fill the void. The Johnian joined fellow graduates from the LXs side Omar Hatteea (Fitzwilliam) and Joe Story (Trinity) in the back three. The trio would be marshalled by the experienced Amesbury, but the Army were to prove too strong as the Light Blues got the Lent portion of their schedule underway.

Further changes were imposed upon the Light Blues after the first exchanges. Andrew Hunter (St Edmund’s), one of seven Blues to start in the pack, dislocated a finger, being replaced by Rowan Beckett (Peterhouse).

Cambridge were under pressure almost from the first whistle, repeatedly defending perilous positions as the Army pressed home the physical advantage they held over their hosts. Only with intuition and tenacity from scrum-half Bell (Girton) and Hennessey (Trinity) respectively were the home side able to venture beyond their own 22. The Army were a complete side; hooker Bombardier Austin (Royal Artillery) was magnificent, taking the ball at first receiver and scrummaging strongly with his front row companions.

First blood, however, for all the pressure exerted by the Army, went to Cambridge. Hennessey, who started last month’s Varsity Match at inside centre, dispatched a penalty between the posts that was awarded after a period of quick Light Blue play. This was to be the only lead Cambridge would hold. 

With Corporal Evans (Royal Welsh) barking orders through a thick Welsh accent, the Army were soon once again in the ascendancy. A series of powerful scrums placed the visiting side within enemy territory; despite the ball hitting the turf as it went wide from the base of one such scrum, a man clad in red was able to collect and dive over for the first of 11 tries for the side. 

A second try was surrendered rapidly by the hosts. Though Saunter defended Lance Corporal Smith’s (Royal Welsh) drive for the line admirably, the excellent Signalman Davetanivalu (Royal Signals) soon crossed the whitewash. Further points were awarded to the visitors, deservedly so as after a clean line-out ball presented one of their number with the opportunity to crash over. One could sense the frustration in Amesbury, assuming kicking duties from fly-half for the night and Hennessey trying to ignite the Light Blues’ attack. The Captain’s efforts were not to go unrewarded. Bell orchestrated repeated thrusts at the line from the forwards, himself burrowing through next to the goalposts, squeezing past the stoutest of defences after Burnett (Jesus) was held just short. The Light Blues were not to score again.

Before Referee Carl Adams blew for half-time, the Army chalked up two more tries. The Army, resplendent bedecked in crimson, exhibited a vast array of weapons: mobile forwards fashioned the first of two scores in reply to Bell’s effort from a lineout, and Lance Bombardier Dixon (Royal Engineers) darted his way through the Cambridge line to craft the second. 35-10 at half-time.

Amesbury's young side were no match for the Army over 80 minutesDomininkas Zalys

There was to be no fairy-tale send-off for Captain Amesbury; in the bitter cold of the Fenlands the home side was put to the sword for what would ultimately prove to be their heaviest defeat of the season so far. Acrobatics from Evans behind the ruck to reach the ball afforded the backs of the British Army time and space to attack. Steely determination from Lance Corporal Rokodoguni (Scots), brother of England international Semesa, created an opening for his teammates who added to the ever-increasing gap between the sides on the scoreboard. Another pinpoint line-out throw, and another score, swiftly followed the restart. 

Though being threatened with embarrassment, unceasing resolve proffered the Light Blues opportunities. Debutant Hatteea, likely eager for a score on his first outing, was too hasty in his attacking and, despite being put in a position to score courtesy of earlier work by Amesbury and Story, the latter finishing the game at full-back, was ahead of the pass as the line beckoned.

As the second half wore on, the Army showed their class against a tiring home outfit. The visitors scored a try of such quality, few will compare in the remaining games at Grange Road. Textbook scrummaging from the Army front row had the Cambridge pack back-pedalling and clean ball presented itself to Evans. Direct, straight running, challenging the Light Blue backs, put the crimson-clad defenders of democracy into the Cambridge half. An offload in the tackle and superb supporting lines later and one of a number of Army backs could have brought up the half century.

The hosts were not to go down without a fight, however, showcasing their own ingenuity in seeking the line. A penalty begot a line-out; subsequently, clever passing at the front of the line saw a Blue touchdown. Under the floodlights and peering through the stanchions, one could only guess at why Referee Adams had denied whomever was in temporary jubilation a score.

The ceaseless march of time was to put paid to any attempts at the miraculous, and both benches emptied with a raft of replacements introduced. Lance Bombardier Edwards (Royal Artillery) was the beneficiary of quick hands in midfield, touching down in the corner as the game aged. Lance Bombardier Vunivesilevu (Royal Artillery) drew up his own try, exploiting gaps in a much-changed Cambridge defensive line to give the visitors their tenth score.


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An eleventh would be added with the final action of the contest; one of the impressive Army pack was prevented, illegally, from crossing himself and Referee Adams blew under the posts for a penalty try to draw proceedings to a close with the score 73-10.

Charlie Amesbury walked off the Grange Road turf for the final time as Captain of CURUFC having been on the receiving end of a display of attacking intent his Light Blue side lacked. A young side, many of whom will feature in the U20s Varsity on March 3rd, who will surely have learnt from the contest. Growing pains are to be expected whilst the next generation of Blues are cultivated. The scoreboard bore considerable damage; one only hopes that confidence is not broken by such a result against battle-hardened opposition with experience on their side.

Cambridge University RUFC: Saunter, Story, Amesbury (C), Triniman, Hatteea, Hennessey, Bell; Dean, Burnett, Troughton, Hunter, Rose, Smart, Leonard, Richardson 

Army: Davies, Rokodoguni, Davetanivalu, Leathem, Edwards, Dixon, Evans; Titchard-Jones, Austin, Smith, Lewis Bean, Smith, Cross, Dawson, Taura

Replacements:

Cambridge University RUFC: Huppatz, MacCallum, White, Beckett, Eriksen, Hammond, Elms, Perks, Bewes

Army: Brown, Dowding, Gill, Parkins, Miller, Vunivesilevu, Nacavamuto, Wilson

Referee: Mr Carl Adams

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