A pair of tries from Archie Smeaton contributed to the Cambridge winKatie E. Kasperson

Following a tough defeat to Trinity College Dublin last Thursday (10/3), Cambridge University Rugby Union Football Club (CURUFC) Blues defeated Coventry RFC by a score of 31-10 yesterday evening (16/3) under the Grange Road floodlights.

For the hosts, three losses in the last four matchups meant that a victory was top of the agenda, as they continue to prepare for this year’s Varsity Match on Saturday 2nd April at Twickenham. Coventry served as their final test before the all-important Battle of the Blues.

Cambridge’s squad included two new faces, Charles Kantolinna and Daniel Jukes, who both started on the sidelines. Homerton College had an unusually large contingent in the squad, with Connor Fairman, James Moore, and Jukes joining staple scrum-half Charles Favell. Demi Obembe also secured a spot in the starting fifteen after warming the bench against Trinity College Dublin.

The evening’s game began in fairly farcical fashion, with Cambridge being penalised for crossing inside thirty seconds before a sweeping Coventry move allowed David Opoku to score in the corner to make it 5-0 mere minutes after kick off. The visitors couldn’t notch up the extras.

The early Coventry onslaught continued, with the academy side piling over from a maul in just the fourth minute to make it 10-0. The conversion, however, was missed again.

Ikechi Mere put in a strong performance on the wing for the Light BluesKatie E. Kasperson

The weather did little to help a shell-shocked Blues outfit, as terrible conditions at Grange Road caused numerous handling errors in the opening ten minutes. The two early tries did seem to jolt Cambridge into action though, with Archie Smeaton producing some strong carries before Tom Walton did well to break the Coventry line.

The attack was stunted, however, by a Coventry penalty awarded for an infringement at the breakdown - a running theme in the first half hour, as the Light Blues struggled to maintain discipline at the ruck.

Cambridge did pull a score back after a scrappy series of pick and goes culminated in a try under the posts, which was duly converted by stand-in fly-half Alex King to make it 10-7 to Coventry.

Following the Cambridge score, momentum shifted towards the home side, getting to grips with the conditions and beginning to play some decent rugby in the backs. Several times they were encamped on the Coventry try line, but some poor decision-making and unfortunate handling prevented them from edging into the lead.

The Light Blues finally capitalised on their dominance just before half time, scoring in the corner to grab a 12-10 lead, with the extras missed by King. A scrappy first half, plagued by typically awful Cambridge weather, saw the hosts head in marginally ahead at the break.

Miserable weather made for tough playing conditions at Grange RoadKatie E. Kasperson

Cambridge made two changes at the interval, Charles Favell coming on at scrum-half and hooker Paddy Harris replacing James Wright. Favell, in particular, made an instant impact, with some fantastic distribution allowing Cambridge to add their third try of the night, as Alex King bursted through to dot down under the posts. He added the extras to stretch the lead to 19-10.

Cambridge continued to dominate, Archie Smeaton breaking through three tackles before being felled at the twenty-two. Smeaton’s efforts were rewarded a few minutes later, powering over from ten yards out to make it 26-10 after King’s conversion.

Coventry, despite their promising opening ten minutes, had barely got out of their half in the second period. Cambridge continued to rotate throughout the game, with a tiring Coventry side looking lethargic in comparison.

The next ten minutes were characterised by sustained phase play from both sides, albeit deep within the Coventry half. Stern defence from both outfits prevented further additions to the scoreline, Coventry try-scorer Opoku impressing defensively to shut down several Cambridge attacks.

Favell continued to make his mark, darting through tackles consistently and distributing well, but Coventry stood steadfast. Cambridge replacement Alex Froud looked certain to score after being put through in the corner, but brilliant recovery work from Opoku once again prevented the Light Blues from adding to their tally.


Mountain View

Trinity College Dublin beat Cambridge Rugby Blues

The home side’s fifth try did come shortly after though, with Connor Fairman scoring from close range before Ramsay Hodgson hooked the conversion wide, marking the final act of a game that saw Cambridge triumph 31-10.

Rugby matches are often a game of two halves; this one was characterised by a brief opening burst from Coventry before a comprehensive performance from the Light Blues, allowing them to cruise to victory in the end.

Varsity Player of the Match: Archie Smeaton (Cambridge)

Cambridge will next be in action against Oxford at Twickenham on Saturday 2nd April. Tickets for the Varsity Matches can be purchased here.


Cambridge Starting XV: Ben Jackson (Sidney Sussex)*, James Wright (Jesus), Matt Pettit (Clare)*, Jason Kururangi (St Edmund’s)*, Tom Walton (St John’s)*, Stephen Leonard (Emmanuel, Captain)*, Demi Obembe (Churchill)*, Archie Smeaton (Queens’), David Holdroyd (Jesus), Alex King (St Catharine’s), Tim Andrew (Jesus), Sam Odu (Gonville & Caius), Josh Grier (Gonville & Caius), Ikechi Mere (St John’s), Ramsey Hodgson (St John’s)

Cambridge Replacements: Luke Parry (Downing)*, Paddy Harris (Hughes Hall), Angus Peters (Wolfson), Laurence Marwood (St Edmund’s), Connor Fairman (Homerton), Charles Kantolinna (Jesus), Alex Froud (Magdalene), Hugo Lloyd Williams (St John’s), Charles Favell (Homerton)*, Adam Wylie (Girton), James Moore (Homerton), Dan Jukes (Homerton)

*Denotes Blue

Coventry Starting XV: Leroy O’Neal, Ollie Stone, Stu Day, Ray Kanyasa, Louis Andrews Tooth, George Hallam, Archie Strath, Zac McLure, Fin Ogden, Ollie Betteridge, Quiton Blythe, Joe Brock, Louis James, David Opoku, Sam Peppitt

Coventry Replacements: Chris Ramano, Zac Byers, Sam Cowell, Myrie Walker, Miguel Alves, Christian Bannister, James Brazier, Ben Leahy, Ross Chamberlain, Louis Beer