Cambridge men suffer 27-24 defeat to Navy in rugby

Cambridge led the match 24-19 going into its closing stages before the Navy roused a late fightbackJoseph Hill

Under the floodlights of Grange Road this evening (16/02), Cambridge University Rugby Union Football Club (CURUFC) Men lost to the Royal Navy by a tight score of 27-24.

Last time out, the Light Blues comfortably beat Cambridge RUFC 65-7.

Looking at captain Stephen Leonard’s team sheet before the game, ex-England international Toby Flood earned his first start at flyhalf, while Alex Froud forced his way into the backrow following an impressive performance for the LXs last week against the University of Worcester, which the Cambridge side emerged from as 52-12 winners.

The opening exchanges were well-balanced, with both sides unable to really break the other down. A good covering tackle from Charles Favell prevented Navy captain Jarrard Hayler from bursting through off an early scrummage, before a break from Navy lock Josh Williams was pulled back for an earlier infringement.

Despite those early warning signs, however, Cambridge broke the deadlock in the tenth minute, with skipper Stephen Leonard crashing over from a line-out. Toby Flood missed the extras to leave the score at 5-0 to the hosts. Flood picked up an injury in the process, meaning Alex King moved into fly-half.

It was King’s long-range touchfinder that then teed up Cambridge with their second try of the evening. With the Navy subsequently penalised at the breakdown, Tom Walton smartly took it quick and dotted down from close-range. King made no mistake with the boot to extend the Light Blues’ lead to 12-0.

An uncharacteristically sluggish Navy outfit seemed to jolt into action after Cambridge’s second score, almost converting in the corner after several phases of expansive rugby from their backs. They came close again moments later, but Ben Chambers was denied in the corner by a brilliant tackle from Angus Mackintosh.

They did, however, open their account in the 30th minute, seemingly out of nowhere. A kick from Cambridhe’s Suwi Chibale looked to have received Chambers, who gathered after several bounces and received the onrushing tackle unfazed, slipping in flanker Ratu Vakalutukali who then returned the favor to cap off a brilliant 80-yard score.

As the first half progressed, the wind began to impact the game more, with both teams looking nervy under the high ball. Cambridge’s tactic of throwing to the back of the lineout became more difficult to carry out, with one throw from hooker James Wright spiraling way off course to end up gratuitously in the hands of the Navy.

The visitors added to their tally just before the half-time whistle, with hooker Ben Priddey piling over from the breakdown and Jordan Gott adding the extras from the touchline to send the teams in level at the interval.

The Navy raced out of the blocks after half time, Priddey adding his second of the night and Gott again slotting over to make it 19-12 to the away side.

A Navy outfit much-changed from the first 40, courtesy of a wealth of replacements on the bench, continued to pen in the home side. Gott had a chance to add to his points tally, but his penalty from near the halfway line erred just the wrong side of the posts. Cambridge did well to absorb sustained pressure, finally earning a penalty at the breakdown to relieve the onslaught.

Moments later, Suwi Chibale burst through the Navy defence, looking destined to score but eventually dragged down just before the tryline. However, Dougal Russell did cross over in the corner after great awareness from Cambridge’s stand-in 10, King, to find him isolated on the wing. A tricky conversion from out wide was subsequently missed by King to leave it at 19-17 to the visitors.

Cambridge didn’t have to wait long to pull ahead though, as Grange Road was lit up by replacement prop Luke Parry displaying speed usually reserved for wingers to sprint forty yards to the five-metre line before Walton powered his way to the tryline. The conversion was made, meaning Cambridge led by 24 points to 19.

But their lead was short-lived, with Alex Peterson scoring his first try of the occasion almost immediately after to level the scores at 24 apiece.

With seconds remaining on the clock, a long-range penalty from replacement Rory Mitchell edged the Navy ahead, his kick just about creeping over the posts. To the dismay of the Grange Road faithful, this was almost the last play of the game, with the Navy gleefully booting the ball out of play.

In a hard-fought match that could have gone either way, the Navy ran out 27-24 winners, leaving Cambridge to rue missed opportunities.

Varsity Player of the Match: Jordan Gott (Navy)


Cambridge Starting XV: Ben Jackson (Sidney Sussex)*, James Wright (Jesus), Matt Pettit (Clare)*, Charlie Friend (St John’s), Zac Bischoff (St John’s)*, Tom Walton (St John’s)*, Alex Froud (Magdalene), Stephen Leonard (Emmanuel, Captain)*, Charles Favell (Homerton)*, Toby Flood (Queens’), Tim Andrew (Jesus), Sam Odu (Gonville & Caius), Suwi Chibale (Queens’)*, Dougal Russell (St John’s )*, Alex King (St Catherine’s)

Cambridge Replacements: Luke Parry (Downing)*, Angus Peters (Wolfson), Laurence Marwood (St Edmund’s), Jason Kuruangi (St Edmund’s)*, Demi Obembe (Churchill)*, Daniel Montesino Jones (St John’s)*, David Holdroyd (Jesus), Adam Wylie (Girton), Jamie Benson (Downing)

*Denotes Blue

Royal Navy Starting XV: Richie Ives, Ben Priddey, Chris Warner, Gav Hughan, Josh Williams, Toby Papp. Ratu Vakalutukali, Jarrard Hayler (Captain), Sam Carter, Jordan Gott, Ben Chambers, Kai Baker, Rory O’Brien, Kiniviliame Dakuiliga, Craig Duncan

Royal Navy Replacements: Louis Frankland, Tim Lindsay, Ben Watson, Ashley Wakefield, Dan Macadams, Joe Richards, Mitchell Spencer, Rory Mitchell, Alex Peterson, Dan Rutter, Kane Tear-Bourge, Sean Mackervall,Ben Raivalitia, Remi Norville, Jerome Rudder

The Blues will next be in action against the Army at Grange Road next Wednesday (23/02).

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