Cambridge led the tie for the entire eighty minutesJoseph Hill

On Wednesday evening (27/10), Cambridge University Rugby Union Football Club (CURUFC) beat Exeter Chiefs under-23s by a score of 29-14 at Grange Road.

CURUFC went into the fixture still without injured captain Charlie Watson, meaning that Tom Walton pulled on the armband to lead a team that included ten returning Blues. Jamie Benson also made his debut for the club at fly-half. The side’s last outing produced an impressive 26-17 victory over Pringle Farm Pillagers last Thursday (21/10).

Meanwhile, Cambridge’s visiting opponents were the academy squad for Premiership Rugby outfit Exeter Chiefs, who finished runners-up in last season’s professional campaign.

Straight from the kick-off, Scotland U20 international Archie Smeaton broke four tackles and ran deep into Exeter territory, offloading to last week’s player of the match Max Loveridge only for him to be brought down at the 40-yard line. Exeter didn’t hold out for long though, with Tim Andrew crossing over in the corner after a sweeping move from the other touchline. Debutant Jamie Benson added the extras to set the score at 7-0 to Cambridge with barely sixty seconds on the clock.

For the first five minutes, Cambridge continued to knock at the door of the Exeter try line, squandering a golden opportunity to exploit a huge overlap when the ball was lost in the breakdown. Benson began to show signs of confidence, taking a quick lineout to himself deep in Cambridge’s half and shrugging off two Exeter defenders before offloading smoothly, sparking a promising move which unfortunately ended in disappointing fashion as the ball came loose.

Cambridge’s second try came after twenty minutes, with Loveridge acting as the architect to this time slip in Andrew for his try number two of the evening. Benson missed a difficult kick from the touchline, leaving the score at 12-0 to the home side.

Exeter pulled one back five minutes later, however, as they piled over from close range following a period of sustained pressure. But a mere thirty seconds after the restart saw Andrew complete his hat-trick, brilliantly weaving his way through to finish in style in the corner to make it 17-7.

Cambridge could have had a stunning fourth, as Benson returned a kick from his own 22 to the opposite one, sending the ball out to Suwi Chibale whose offload to Smeaton was dropped just a metre away from the try line. The first half came to a close with Cambridge ten points to the good, a score which didn’t quite reflect the dominance they imposed over a sluggish Exeter side.

Cam Millen replaced Benson at fly-half during the break, with Benson availing himself well on his first start for the Blues. The second half began in similar fashion to the first, with full-back Alex King dotting down after being set through by Smeaton. Although King narrowly missed his conversion, Cambridge boasted a strong 22-7 lead.

The next twenty minutes were ultimately characterised by scrappy rugby. Handling errors began to creep into the games of both sides, with Exeter’s fly-half in particular spilling the ball multiple times from scrums and rucks. Smeaton consistently caused the Chiefs backline problems, bursting through tackles seemingly at will, but neither team could put together more than four or five phases of rugby before the ball was turned over.

With 67 minutes on the clock, Exeter finally added to their tally, again driving over from close range to take the score to 22-14. Yet with less than ten minutes to go, Cambridge’s King pounced on a loose ball just inside halfway and ran in his side’s fifth try of the night, as well as his second of the evening. Substitute James Moore slotted the conversion from out wide to restore Cambridge’s seven point cushion at 29-14.


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The score remained unchanged until the sound of the final whistle, granting Cambridge their second successive victory of the season. Exeter had quality within their ranks, but seemed like a much less organised outfit than Cambridge, consistently getting caught up in their own half without much direction. The Blues deserved their victory, and maybe walked away from the game disappointed in the fact that they didn’t score more, especially given how open the Chiefs defence was at times.

Varsity Player of the match: Tim Andrew

Looking ahead, CURUFC’s first team will face Welsh Academicals next Saturday (06/10), who will be playing their opening game of this rugby season.

Teams

Cambridge Starting XV: Danny Collins (Fitzwilliam)*, James Wright (Jesus), Matt Pettit (Clare)*, Charlie Friend (St John’s), Zac Bischoff (St John’s)*, Tom Walton, (St John’s, Captain)*, Demi Obembe (Churchill)*, Archie Smeaton (Queens’)*, David Holdroyd (Jesus), Jamie Benson (Downing), Tim Andrew (Jesus), Max Loveridge (Jesus)*, Suwi Chibale (Queens’)*, Angus McIntosh (Jesus), Alex King (St Catherine’s)

Cambridge Replacements: Luke Parry (Downing)*, Jeremy James (Selwyn), Paddy Harris (Hughes Hall), Adam Rochussen (Churchill), Hugo Lloyd-Williams (St John’s)*, Danny Hide (Hughes Hall), Cam Millen (Gonville & Caius), James Moore (Homerton)

*Denotes Blue

Exeter Chiefs: Unconfirmed