March Bears 95-0 Cambridge Exiles (and others)

January brought the rains, but despite the Cambridge pitches being under water, deep out in the fens, March’s pitch was remarkably dry and firm. And with plenty of players available, several who could/should be playing for Cambridge(!), March had plenty of subs to lend the Exiles. A wedding, and maybe some overindulgence, meant that of the 35 active squad players only 12 were available to make the expedition through the floods. The big benefit of this was that the away dressing room in March can only cope with 12 players, so on this occasion we didn’t have to change in shifts.

With a back row, centre and wing loaned, the match was able to start with 15 a side.

With a scratch team, very little preparation and no coaches, it was little surprise that the match started with several relatively easy tries to the March backs, who were slick all day. This was supplemented by two things: their back row were also quick and strong and the back row and centre they loaned us couldn’t (or wouldn’t) tackle. For the first twenty minutes then, the scores ran riot and the Exiles were 33-0 down. This wasn’t helped when the Exiles at last got a little sustained possession before Cadge unfortunately spilled forward.

After five tries, at last the cobwebs were run out of the Exiles and a method was manufactured to cover the big gaps created in large part by sometime-1923-March-fly-half Will Paul, who ended up the March Player of the Match. In the second quarter, the Exiles competed more or less evenly and kept the try line secure until almost half time, when the final try of the half went in and the Exiles, much buoyed by that performance went in ’only’ 40-0 down.

The second half was much more even in play, yet more uneven in score. Throughout the game, except for one scrum (more of that later) the Exiles front row of Elie, Justin and Cadge dominated the March scrum. Drive provided by Toby and Dick in the engine room meant that the March scrum retreated at every scrum, both their and out put ins, though sadly this only lead to one against the head. Lineouts were secure for Cambridge throws through Nathan and Julian and, once we had worked out where to put players up in the air, we also won a few of the March throws as well. Tom and Taylor continue to develop the half back partnership, but under tremendous pressure from the excellent March back row. Kicking more meant that the Exiles had a little more field position than in the first half. Elliot, playing his second game for us at centre tackled like a demon all game and threatened continually to break through the good defensive March line, sadly without success. Vittorio, playing his second ever game, did his very best on the left wing and Pat at full back tackled whatever he could get near.

The problem was that whenever March won a turnover – which their back row managed rather more frequently than the Exiles would have liked – Will Paul set off another lightning backs move, or passed back inside to the March back row to scythe through.

When they kept the ball the Exiles did look dangerous though and eventually, working their way up the pitch kicked a penalty to the corner where they caught and drove over the line. Somehow, March kept the ball off the floor. But this was ten minutes of Exiles sustained pressure and March were giving away a lot of penalties. With the strength of the Exiles scrum not in doubt, skipper Julian was persuaded to opt for a scrum five metres out. March brought on a replacement loose head and for this one scrum, the only scrum in the game, he was able to spin the Cambridge scrum at the put in and the ball went into the March front row where it was heeled and they ran the length of the pitch to score.

That was the ONE scrum the Exiles needed to dominate and the ONE scrum they failed to do so. Very frustrating!

From there, the wind went out of the Exiles sails, though all twelve continued to give everything and probably had more possession and field position than March, while March scored a further eight breakaway tries, several overcoming last ditch Cambridge tackles from Elliot on numerous occasions, Pat  more than once and even Dick. Final score was 95-0.

Personally – and as agreed before hand with the March coach – as soon as the score had gone over 50, I would have levelled up the teams a little by swapping back row and centre between the teams. March would still have won comfortably and it would have rewarded the Exiles for being committed enough to make it all the way up there with just 12 players. However the March attitude was that they wanted to get their score to three figures which didn’t reflect well on them. Having said that, we are very grateful for every player who put on a Blood and Sand shirt, thank you guys.

It may seem that the players would be down hearted after such a drubbing, but not a bit of it. In the huddle, everyone was really pleased to have played, with captain Julian and manager Dick both delighted that 100% effort had been made throughout the game. We would all do it again! Though if we had 15 or more players of our own, it would without doubt have been a far closer game. In the end, rugby won as another match wasn’t cancelled and 28 players had a good opportunity to run off the Christmas lethargy – and have a few beers!

Another long trip to Thorney next week, but we will have a stronger side out, so fingers crossed!

Elie Hammou, Justin Attelsey, David Cadwalladr, Toby Briggs, Dick Wallin, Julian Mannion, AN Other, Nathan Crow, Tom Critchley, Taylor Lennon, Vittorio Lupino, Elliot Humphreys, AN Other, AN Other, Patrick Mangell
Replacements: AN Other x2