CURUFC face off against Cambridge RUFC on a drizzly Monday night

Preparations for the rugby Varsity Match are in full swing with the Light Blues’ prevailing in their latest pre-season hit out against town rivals Cambridge RUFC. In a game defined by resolute defending from the Light Blues and rapid accelerating wing attacks from the townsmen, CURUFC held on in the dying minutes to take the annual Town vs Gown fixture by the narrowest of margins as their opponents were left to rue a missed conversion. 

Clinical kicking proved to be the difference on a drizzly Monday night at Grange Road. Light Blues’ fly half Chris Bell scored from two conversions and two penalties while Lawrence Rayner for The Blood & Sand narrowly missed his maiden conversion from 10 yards by inches, a moment that was made more salient by the eventual one-point margin.

The first half saw the University, playing east to west, frustrate Cambridge defensively whilst also piercing through opposition lines on two occasions early on. First came a forceful run from debutant and former South African international Flip van der Merwe, before a tidy pass to Bell for a 9th minute try. Bell converted and subsequently secured and converted a penalty to bring the score to double digits within 18 minutes. 

Shortly after, referee Jake Hill brandished the first of the evening’s four yellow cards to Light Blue’s prop Charlie MacCallum, giving Cambridge the hope of a chink in what had been a so far impenetrable line. The one man disadvantage was, however, negated by the University’s collective fortitude, with their goal-line defence holding strong.


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This led to the game’s first flash point, with a large group of players coming together, arms aloft, as passions boiled over and exchanges became heated. After spending several minutes regaining control of the game and consulting with the touch judge, referee Hill elected to send both CURUFC’s Rowan Beckett and Cambridge’s Matt Meek to the bin.

Again showing no signs of their numerical deficiency, the Light Blues were able to kick to touch before putting together a rapid catch and drive movement from the resultant line out which hooker Miles Huppatz slammed over the line for another try and subsequent conversion by Bell bringing the score up to 17-0 in favour of the hosts at half time. 

Despite being shut out in the first half, Cambridge displayed no signs of discouragement after the break. A series of scrums were won confidently, with Cambridge gradually gaining favourable field position. Cambridge fans thought their duck had been broken when a fumbled pass from a slippery ball saw Miles Bean pounce and get to ground beyond the line, only for the referee to deem the ball had left play beyond the goal line.

Minutes later the Light Blues picked up the fourth and final yellow of the evening, with Tom Walton sent to the sin-bin for a technical offence, before Cambridge were finally awarded dividends for the hardy scrum work which defined their evening. Fred Betteridge got the Blood and Sand on the scoreboard in the 54th minute with a missed conversion bringing the game to 17-5. 

The Light Blues then opted for fresh legs, bringing on four changes in the pack including former Harlequins second row and Wallabies captain James Horwill. Cambridge responded with some silky work from their backline, with George Laing’s charged-down kick being grounded for a try by Rayner in the 76th minute. The number 10 then converted his own try with a swift drop kick and bought the score to 20-19 in the 76th minute. 

Sensing opportunity amidst what had previously felt like consolation, Cambridge mounted a series of attacks in the closing minutes, with some solid scrum work leading to another try, this time by Ramaz Rukhadze. 

This was, however, to be the last action of the game, and relieved Light Blues fans opposite the pavilion erupted with noise characteristic of both sets of fans throughout the evening, who had all come out in strong numbers for another year. 

CURUFC’s win was a much needed boost to their Varsity campaign, which had previously suffered pre-season losses to Loughborough and Durham. They are next in action again at Grange Road against Welsh Academicals on 12th October, whilst Cambridge face Canterbury away on the same afternoon.

Cambridge University: Gatus; Jemphrey, Russell, Mackle, Story; Bell, Gliksten; MacCallum, Huppatz, Miller, van der Merwe, Beckett, Walton, McMahon, Leonard.

Replacements: Schusman, Harbone, Horwill, Hargreaves, Smeaton, Laing, Mullaney, Elms, Lovelace.

Cambridge: Patrick; Phoenix, Lewanituva, Simonds, Bean; Rayner, Duffin; Meek, Priestley, Copeland, Hill, Clarke, Dickinson, Dawson, Betteridge.

Replacements: Rukhadze, Rayment, Napier, Marshall, Venni, Traynor, Chivanyge.

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