A frustrating afternoon for a below par Cambridge team, saw their winning streak come to an end away against Old Elthamians.
Cambridge had won six in a row before Old Elthamains narrowly inflicted a 27-26 defeat on them in a last-kick decider.
Cambridge seemed to be off the pace from the start, as they repeatedly lost their discipline at the breakdown, and this lead to Elthamians number ten Tom White, kicking the opening nine points from penalties.
Old Elthamians then showed they can also run the ball, as they managed to touch down following a nice move out to the right and a little chip over the fullback for the opening try of the game, and they had earned an early 16-0 lead.
Old Elthamians were in full control of the contest at this stage, but then a moment of madness from Tom White. He deliberately knocked-on and earned himself a yellow card, which White verbally disputed. Almost immediately, the referee put the yellow back in his pocket and pulled out the red one instead for dissent, clearly having heard something he didn’t approve of.
This gave Cambridge the bit of encouragement that they were desperately needing, now knowing they would play almost an hour with an extra man.
It took them to just before halftime to make it count though, when the familiar sight of Steve Hipwell crashing through tackles broke the line, before he offloaded to Matt Howling running a good support line to put the away side on the board. The halftime whistle followed James Stokes’ conversion and the score was 16-7.
Cambridge started the second half struggling to gain any control in the set-pieces, as they faltered in the scrum and at the line-outs.
The home side took full advantage as they slotted another penalty, before scoring their second try and making the scoreboard a disappointing one for the Blood and Sand at 24-7.
But, something sparked Cambridge into life, though it seemed it may be a case of too little, too late. A superb try from substitute Jim Wigglesworth made the score look more respectable, before a brilliant solo try from Captain Stef Liebenberg gave them genuine hope at 24-19.
Wigglesworth’s try was all about the winger’s pure speed, but Scrum-half Liebenberg’s, was all about craft. He picked the ball up at the back of the ruck, before cutting inside the defensive line with a little show and go. He was now one-on-one with their full-back, but sold him a perfect dummy before crossing the line.
With five minutes left, Cambridge then broke again, and Matt Howling grabbed his second try of the day courtesy of a sweeping move through the hands. Remarkably, it now seemed certain that they would leave with an unlikely victory, as Wigglesworth converted to make it 24-26.
With only a few minutes left though, Cambridge once again gave away a penalty following a set piece, and Old Elthamains regained the lead by 27-26.
However, Cambridge won the ball back quickly from the restart and began to recycle the ball well. Old Elthamians, still a man light, couldn’t cope with the pressure and gave away a penalty from just in front of the ten metre line. But, Wigglesworth’s kick skewed right of the posts, and the whistle went.
On the balance of it, Cambridge probably didn’t deserve to win this one, but will nevertheless be disappointed to have lost after putting themselves into a winning position.
They will look forward though to their last home fixture against Canterbury next Saturday, as they hope to put on a better showing for the Volac Park faithful than here at Old Elthamians.