Cambridge once again left it late, very late, this time to get the victory by 26-19, over a battling Southend side.
Like last week in Lydney, Cambridge seemed in control in the opening stages, as they put three well-worked tries on the board. Tom Ellis, Martin Wolfenden and Pete Kolakowski all touched over the whitewash to give the home side an early advantage of 19-3.
Cambridge then seemed to get themselves dragged into a battle they could have avoided. Southend had a strong pack as always, and largely dominated in the scrums.
The visitors managed to march their way up the pitch, and Cambridge gave away a few sloppy penalties to give them hope at the break, as they came off with the score at 19-9.
The second half started in much the same vein. Southend showed the desire in trying to escape the relegation zone, and fought themselves over the line twice in quick succession. Fortunately for Cambridge, both conversions were wide of the mark to leave the scores level at 19-19.
The introduction of Ben Penfold and Mike Gillick to the back line certainly got Cambridge playing in a more attacking style once again. Chances came and went, but with only a few minutes left on the clock, they won a penalty just on a slight angle on the 22. As soon as Penfold struck the ball, he let out a shout of annoyance, and everyone in the ground knew it had missed.
It seemed as if that would be that, a disappointing draw. But, with one last effort, Cambridge swept the ball out to the right. Gillick drew the defenders in, before offloading to James Ayrton, who was winning his 50th cap for the Blood and Sand. Ayrton coaxed in another Southend defender, before popping the ball to Corey Hircock, who had a clear run under the posts.
An incredible finish. Cambridge have entertained their home fans more than most with late drama this season, and this one was certainly dramatic. With the last strike of the game, Penfold kicked the extras over to send Southend home with their tails between their legs, thinking of what could have been, as they left Cambridge out on the pitch to celebrate another miraculous five points as the game finished 26-19.
Cambridge have now won 11 of their last 16, and will be hoping to keep the pressure firmly on those above them in a fortnight’s time, when they make the tough trip down to Launceston.
Some video highlights of the match, plus some behind the scenes stuff will follow soon.
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