Cambridge Exiles 34-26 Saffron Walden II

Getting a team together for social rugby is pretty tricky at the moment. On Thursday the Exiles had managed to get to 15 genuine Exiles playing. Saffron Walden II were on 14 players but determined to come over to Ellgia Fields anyway. By Friday the Exiles were down to 14, then Will Dorasamy put his hand up and by 1 o’clock on Saturday Walden had 16 (with two feeling a bit crook and not fancying 80 minutes.) by 2 o’clock the Exiles were down to 14 as one was ill and by kick off down to 13 as another player hadn’t turned up (later discovered down to incorrectly saying he was available when he wasn’t.) With the RFU principle of ‘game on’, the team managers agreed to play 13-a-side. Before kick off the players gathered all the flag posts and moved from pitch 5 which had by now become more or less water logged, up to pitch 3 which was marginally better. At least the puddles didn’t show on the surface…

The teams lined up to observe a minutes silence in remembrance for the Wisbech player, Arturas Rudys, who had lost his life during their game against Diss the previous weekend. Both teams retired the 14 shirt for the match in respect to his position.

In the pouring rain, the game was unlikely to be one of running and handling, and the first few minutes seemed to be going that way: first the kick off didn’t make 10m, then there were two knock ons and a not straight line out. This made four scrums in the first 3 minutes. The Exiles front row already looked tired.

Walden then made steady progress with their pick and go game and for ten minutes it looked like a game of attrition. But Cambridge broke free, ran the length of the field and Kieran scored a try. 5-0 quite against the run of play.

Another ten minutes saw the same thing happen for Patrick, then untackleable JCB scored through the middle and Cambridge were 17-0 ahead having had about 10% possession. Somehow, the Exiles backs seemed to be able to handle the ball without knocking on, and getting it wide quickly is always a successful tactic at our level. When Patrick scored his second the cries of ‘hatrick Patrick’ rang around the ground (well in my imagination anyway, but someone did say it) and Cambridge were 22-0 up with almost half an hour gone. The game however had been fairly balanced in normal play.

The makeshift front row of Dick, Justin and Cadge – well Cadge wasn’t makeshift but had been missing in action for four weeks while he followed Wales around the French World Cup venues – were struggling against the experienced Walden props and hooker. Harri and James K in the second row – and of course JCB at 8 – all carried well in the loose and all the forwards defended strongly.

The half backs of James R and new recruit Lucas proved sound while Will at 12 ran the game. Taylor outside centre and the back three of Kieran, Adam and Patrick revelled being given the ball with space to run. Maybe there is something to be said for playing the game with 13 players?

However the pressure was telling, especially in the front row, and at last Walden got the try they deserved. Behind the posts, that same pressure showed on Justin’s face as he realised that he had lost vision in his right eye. Scary or what? Justin going off meant the Exiles were down to 12 and only two front row now, but Walden player Harry Richardson put his hand up to step into our front row. Sadly this meant three props so Dick got the short straw and played only his second ever competitive scrum game at hooker… He never wants to do it again!

A second Walden try took the half time score to 22-12. Half time instructions were simple from coach Reedo: play the game in the Walden half. Will followed this brilliantly, kicking long and the Exiles team pressuring the catchers into mistakes up the field. Two more tries put the score to 34-12. The first a great line run by Taylor and perfectly timed pass from Will, the second a characteristically storming run from JCB for his second.

With twenty minutes left Walden were now comprehensively on top in the scrum and their close driving kept them pressuring the Exiles line, but great defence held them out, the odd turnover giving Will the chance to clear our lines and start the process of Walden inching themselves back up the pitch. They scored two tries in and amongst this play, their second with about eight minutes left taking the score to 34-26, still two scores difference. Under the posts, Dick explained he could not manage another competitive scrum at hooker but that he would stay on until the next scrum.

This didn’t happen until the 78th minute after eight minutes of heroic Exiles defence, at which point, explaining we would have to go uncontested and Dick would have to go off – part of the laws about uncontested scrums, Walden were incensed, seeing this as a tactical ploy when the reality was Dick was broken. Now at 12 v 13, the Exiles continued to hold off and the final whistle came from a Walden knock on five metres out.

It was great to get a rugby game in and the Exiles were delighted to have come away with an unexpected win in a very competitive match, with enormous thanks to Saffron Walden for their efforts to get a game going and keep it playing throughout.

Dick Wallin, Justin Attelsey, David Cadwalladr, James Kennedy, Harri Wilby, James Campos Bell, James Robinson, Lucas van Hulls, Kieran Murnane, Will Dorasamy, Taylor Lennon, Adam Griffiths, Patrick Mangell
Replacements: None

Tries: Kieran, Patrick 2, JCB 2, Taylor
Conversions: Will 2