The double-header had current and former Blues take to the field for both sidesBen Phillips

Yesterday evening (20/10) saw CURUFC’s women and men both take on Pringle Farm Pillagers, an amateur Rugby Union side based in Cambridgeshire, at Grange Road. CURUFC Women, captained by Laura Bleehen, kicked off the night at 5pm with a disappointing 0-56 loss, while the men’s side earned a 26-17 victory under the leadership of Tom Walton.

Pringle Farm Pillagers are an RFU-registered club that were established over the summer of this year, originally established as an outfit to enter the Shelford Sevens tournament. But in the words of honorary president Simon Kidney, “things got out of hand a little bit, and someone suggested why don’t we play an invitational XVs as well”. As it stands now, the Pillagers have committed to bringing a team to face Cambridge University for the next five years, with both the men’s and women’s sides hoping to have a balance of Cambridgeshire-based players, Premiership academy players, and university alumni.

CURUFC Women 0 - 56 Pringle Farm Pillagers

Pillagers started the game as they wished to continue, with former Cambridge Blue Fiona Shuttlesworth scoring the first try in the second minute. The ball was smuggled over the line following an early turnover of possession and a series of penalties conceded by the light blues. The conversion was successful to make it 0-7.

The visitors scored another try six minutes later. Although Cambridge had some sustained possession, they were constantly batted back by their opponents. After multiple phases of play, Pillagers managed to turnover the ball and, with a few quick passes and well-timed offloads to the right wing, Cambridge were unable to recover defensively to prevent the try and went 0-12 down. This quick style of play was crucial to the way in which the Pillagers were able to dismantle Cambridge.

In the 16th minute, some miscommunication in the Cambridge left flank allowed for the Pillagers to capitalise on a missed catch off a kick from deep, and the try and successful conversion pushed the score up to 0-19. The left side was targeted again for yet another try four minutes later, as the Pillagers back line skillfully worked the ball over to the right wing for the excellent Alice Elgar, a former Blue herself, to run into acres of space and make it 0-24.

Pillagers played fast rugby, constantly offloading and avoiding contact, whereas the Cambridge side worked a slower game. The light blues played in phases, with forwards taking contact and going to ground to recycle the ball. But rucks actually turned out to be a vulnerability, as Pillagers were stronger on the ground and regained possession regularly.

The end of the first half saw two more tries scored, both coming from quick turnovers of possession and distribution to the flanks, where the Pillagers were able to capitalise on some defensive disorganisation. The half ended 0-36, with six tries and three conversions.

The second 40 started much the same way as the first, but this time Pillagers were seemingly targeting the Cambridge right side. Elgar again scored the first of the three second-half tries that all came down that flank. Although none of the tries were converted, the team in green and black continued to assert their dominance.

A final try came in the 64th minute and was simply a matter of individual excellence from Frances Layton, who after receiving the ball on the halfway line bolted to score a try, skipping past half the Cambridge side in the process to end a superior team performance at 0-56.

Women’s player of the match: Frances Layton, Pringle Farm Pillagers left wing


Cambridge Starting XV: Laura Bleehen (C), Saffron Hicks, Euodia Dodd, Sophie Lamont, Rose Scowen, Hetta Friend, Roksana Dutkiewicz, Hilde Schneeman, Colette Russell, Emma Jones, Suzi Pozniak, Nancy Twigg, Emily Bell, Rosie Lewis, Ella Halcrow

Cambridge Replacements: Abi Caple, Sophie Johnson, Juliette Beunat, Amy Reeves, Sonia Ubong, Cara Prowling, Elise Goddard, Dorothy Burrowes, Sibella Egerton

Pringle Farm Starting XV: Fabia Howell, Charlotte Gisbourne, Jenny Orriss, Alice Elgar, Niamh Finlayson, Leanne Robinson, Fiona Shuttleworth, Anna Stodter, Katie Marks, Elisha Clark, Frances Layton, Lizell Heather, Jessica Norris, Millie Rose, Tessina Braunerova

Pringle Farm Replacements: Georgina Harris, Miriam Woods, Julia Thomaz, Joanna McEwen, Leilah Mills, Laura Tucker, Helena Copley

CURUFC Men 26 - 17 Pringle Farm Pillagers RUFC

The men enjoyed a much tighter affairBen Phillips

Pringle Farm, joined by guest coaches including All Black Sam Tuitupou and Cambridge Director of Rugby Richie Williams, started their inaugural outing in barbarian-esque fashion, an out of the back offload being flung across their own 22 just seconds after kickoff. Five minutes in, Cambridge’s outside-centre Suwi Chibale burst through the Pillagers defensive line, but was felled just inside the 22.

The Pillagers’ commitment to attacking rugby was evident when ten minutes in they were given a penalty dead in front of the posts, but instead opted to kick for touch. Their efforts were rewarded when hooker Joe Richardson bundled over from the subsequent lineout. Ollie Betteridge missed the conversion to leave the score at 0-5.

Pringle Farm almost added to their tally when a sweeping move from their own five metre line unlocked the Cambridge defence, albeit for an unfortunate knock-on deep inside the Cambridge half. Cambridge eventually hit back after 25 minutes, as Max Loveridge brilliantly broke through two tackles and slipped in Chibale to make it 5-5. James Moore sliced his conversion wide, however, meaning that the scores remained level.

Cambridge’s second score came in the 35th minute, with Moore crossing over in the corner and then brilliantly converting from the touchline to take the score to 12-5. Pillagers continued to create opportunities in and around the Cambridge 22, but a lack of discipline meant that penalties got in the way of any try scoring opportunities.

Ex-Fiji captain Akapusi Qera, in particular, was a menace, attacking the ball at speed and causing trouble for the Cambridge back line. Meanwhile, Cambridge scrum-half Charles Favell did well when box-kicking, both whilst attacking and in defence, as well as distributing the ball excellently from the breakdown.

The second half continued much the same way, with Pillagers’ knocking the ball forward just inside the Cambridge ten-metre line. But they came back into the game after 49 minutes, with James Martin showing off some electrifying feet to sprint over the line from thirty metres out. The conversion was once again missed, however, meaning that Cambridge remained two points in front of the visitors.

Martin was on the scoresheet once again a mere three minutes later, running the length of the field at blistering pace to put Pringle Farm back into the lead. This time the conversion sailed over the posts, making it 12-17 to the visiting side. As the rain began to fall heavily, Cambridge hit back. Cam Millen darted between the Pillagers back line and flung it out to Chibale for his second of the night. Moore slotted the conversion from in front of the posts to edge Cambridge ahead again, with the game very much in the balance at 19-17 to the home team.

A beautiful pass from Max Loveridge soon carved open the Pringle Farm defence, but ill-discipline thwarted Cambridge on the try-line, with a penalty given for holding onto the ball in the tackle.


Mountain View

Cambridge suffer debut defeat: CURUFC Women 17-41 Bristol University

Fitness levels on both teams started to drop as the closing minutes ensued, and the game began to see more openings. Five minutes from time, a loose Pillagers pass on their own five metre line was intercepted, allowing Sam Odu to run in CURUFC’s fourth try of the evening, adding the extras himself to make it 26-17 to Cambridge.

At the blow of the final whistle, Cambridge ran out as winners on a rainy Wednesday evening. Pringle Farm will be left to rue missed opportunities, with Cambridge ultimately the more clinical side. It’s doubtful that many other sides will arrive at Grange Road with the same style of rugby as the Pillagers, who consistently ran the ball from inside their own 22, offloaded at will, and produced some genuine moments of quality.

After the game, Pillagers honorary president Simon Kidney and chairman Rowland Winter gave their thoughts on the affair and the club’s broader ambitions. Kidney said that the main aim of the club, as an invitational side, was to “bring fun back to rugby”, as well as believed that they were “the first invitational side to bring a men’s and women’s side to Grange Road”. When asked about the flair and expression of the Pillagers players, Winter stressed that the coaching staff were “all about allowing them to play their own game”, emphasising “individuality and ambition”.

Men’s player of the match: Max Loveridge, CURUFC inside centre


Cambridge Starting XV: Danny Collins, James Wright, Matt Pettit, Charlie Friend, Tom Walton (C), Alex Froud, Demi Obembe, Archie Smeaton, Charles Favell, Cam Millen, Tim Andrew Max Loveridge, Suwi Chibale, James Moore, Alex King

Cambridge Replacements: Luke Parry, Jeremy James, Paddy Harris, Matt West, Hugo Lloyd-Williams, David Holdroyd, Sam Odu, Luka Jovanovic, Angus McIntosh

Pringle Farm Starting XV: Henry Peck, Joe Richardson, Jake Bridges, Rhys Thomas, Ben Meakin, Ben Adams (C), Tom Ball, Akapusi Qera, Mike Gillick, Ollie Betteridge, James Martin, Joe Brock, Louis James, Tuoyo Egodo, Tom Stanton

Pringle Farm Replacements: Corey Lewis, Bradley Robinson, Zianna Alexis, Andrew Hutchinson, Louis Mifsud, Liam Stone, Fin Ogden, Chris Lewis, Joey Patrick, Jayden Courtenay-Robin