The victorious team pose for a photo after the victory CURUFC

The CURUFC Women’s team have further cemented their position as the best women’s university rugby team in the region, all but securing the BUCS Midlands 1A Conference title in a 46-0 win over the University of Leicester on Wednesday afternoon. Their win, which puts them 15 points clear at the top of the table with two games to play, was their eighth conference victory of the season, all of which were achieved with a bonus point.

Cambridge scored eight tries to zero in a clinical performance underpinned by strong set pieces and a dominant forward pack. The game featured seven individual try-scorers, with outside-centre Lara Gibson nabbing a double. This bettered their six-try performance in their corresponding away match against Leicester earlier in the season. It is also the fifth time this year they have kept the opposition scoreless.

The game was characterised by a flurry of scoring at the end of each half, with two tries scored in the final five minutes of the first half, and three in the final ten minutes of the second-half. The brute physicality of Cambridge’ forward pack was ever apparent, restricting Leicester’s forward momentum and enabling easy passage down the field when Cambridge was in possession.

The margin would surely have been even greater were it not for some basic handling errors in the first half and a pedestrian performance with the boot, with only three out of eight tries converted.

“This is the fifth time this year they have kept the opposition scoreless”

The two teams initially arrived to a slightly damp pitch which threatened to curtail Cambridge’s free scoring style. They average just over nine tries per match this season, and the visitors would have been hoping to exploit the conditions in favour of their renowned scrum. The early momentum lay with Cambridge, however. After locking Leicester in their own 22 after the kick-off, the Light Blues struck first. A line-out at the 22 was followed by a sweeping movement to the left side, the ball passing deftly amongst the backs before the home team touched down to open the scoring.

The remainder of the first half was a tale of struggle. Cambridge’s defensive pressure and dominance at the breakdown prohibited Leicester from making regular gains. Incredibly, at no point during the match did the visitors enter Cambridge’s 22. Unfortunately, a lack of discipline from the home team prevented them from fully capitalising on their opponents’ offensive struggles. Too often, poor distribution and handling errors gave Leicester possession just as an attack was building momentum. The early penalty count was also lopsidedly against the hosts, although they were let off by Leicester’s failure to find touch from the ensuing kick on at least three separate occasions.

Despite playing less than perfect rugby, Cambridge went into half-time with a 20-0 lead. The ever-threatening Hannah Vandersluis scored in the 12th minute following a slick rightwards movement off a scrum on the 22, while a bullocking run by Emily Pratt saw her touch down beside the posts in the 29th. The bonus point was secured after the first-half siren, with Bryony Warnock-Horn scoring in the left corner after a dominant passage of play by the forwards.

The second-half saw a much more polished performance by the hosts. Their physical superiority coupled with some slick ball handling meant they were a threat whenever they had the ball. Leicester’s predicament was cemented just after half-time, when Pratt shrugged off a tackle and set off down the ground. With no-one but the fullback between her and the try-line, the No 8 squared her eyes and lowered her shoulders, poleaxing the defender with impeccable timing. The latter ended up sprawled across the grass, a poignant representation of her team’s capitulation. Four more tries followed, with long-range efforts by Gibson and Schneemen padding the margin in the dying minutes.

The result leaves Cambridge on the verge of clinching the BUCS Midlands 1A competition for the second year in a row, with the second-placed University of Worcester having only a mathematical chance of catching up to the Light Blues. Cambridge lead Worcester by 15 points at the top of the table, which means that Worcester require a bonus point victory (five points) in each of their three remaining games, as well as Cambridge losses in their two remaining games by more than seven points each, to draw level. Assuming this were to happen, Worcester would take out the title due to their superior points differential (+501 versus Cambridge’s +361).

Following their BUCS Trophy quarter-final at Cardiff Metropolitan University next Wednesday, Cambridge’s two remaining conference games are both on the road. They visit the University of Nottingham on the 27th of February, before finishing their season at Worcester in a potentially title-deciding encounter.


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Cambridge (1-15): Elgar, Pierce, Orriss, Taylor, Schneemen, Hoshizaki, F Shuttleworth, Pratt, Marks [c], Clark, Samuel, Bradshaw, Gibson, Warnock-Horn, Vandersluis. Replacements: Wilkinson, House, Spruzen, Prowling, J Shuttleworth, Holt, Osborne

Leicester (1-15): Butcher [c], Kruszewska, Wells, Dudson, Holland, Hoffman, Booth, Shakespeare, Dixon, Howell, Iliffe, May, Noble, Wilkinson, Iavarone. Replacements: Salmons, Gunn, King, Willems, Tucker