On Wednesday 19th November, Durham University 1st XV travelled down to Cambridge to play what promised to be an exciting exhibition of running rugby. Neither team were playing for BUCS points so, with the pressure off, both sides were able to show their attacking ability and flair.
Durham got off to a quick start with a penalty struck by Durham fullback, Jack Barker. A well-executed set-piece move sent Jamie Clements through the Cambridge defence untouched, rounding the fullback and scoring in the corner. Barker added the extras from out wide and Durham led by ten points after as many minutes.
However, Cambridge rallied and gathered significant momentum, making good yards around the breakdown. The large Cambridge pack rode this momentum until they crossed the whitewash themselves. Although the conversion was missed, the Blues came back once more off the kick-off. After some good work under the high ball by the Cambridge fullback and more gainline success from their tight forwards, they crossed again. With the conversion knocked over, Cambridge now led 12-10.
The game continued to ebb and flow as Durham struck back after a period of sustained pressure and penalties. This allowed centre Fraser Mosely to show some mercurial footwork and take the lead for Durham once more. The Durham pressure continued and Cambridge began to tire after a long period without the ball. An excellent piece of vision from Nathan Holmes and a nudge into the corner led to a rushed clearance kick from Cambridge which Durham’s back three were able to take advantage of, Clements showing his pace to touch down in the corner once more.
As the teams returned to the changing rooms for half time, the score stood at 24-12. Neither side had taken control of the scrum and both side’s driving maul looked effective. Cambridge’s large pack were making good yards in tight but they were struggling the contain the firepower Durham possessed in the open spaces. This dominance was proved ten minutes into the second half as two beautiful offloads from Hardman and Clements put substitute Rossillo away.
Cambridge began to build some pressure of their own and pinned Durham in their own half for a lengthy period. The Blues were rewarded with a penalty in front of the Durham sticks, making the score 29-15 with twenty minutes remaining. Cambridge’s nemesis, Clements, put Durham further ahead with a solo effort as he completed his hat-trick.
Cambridge were undeterred, kept pressing and carrying hard. With Durham down to 14 men after a cynical piece of play from Harry Thompson, the Blues were able to convert their second half pressure into points as the right winger showed exceptional strength and bundled over in the corner.
The whistle blew and the final score was 36-20 to Durham. The game was the perfect test for the visitors, who have a crucial run of games into Christmas in their BUCS league. For Cambridge, all eyes are surely on the looming Varsity fixture on 11th December. They should take a lot of positives out of the game. They showed that they possess a pack that can wreak havoc when on the front foot and, at the same time, play an exciting brand of attacking rugby.
Photograph: Jed Wee