Player of the Season results

The End of Season Dinner and Player Awards took place at Volac Park last night.

 

So, today I announce the results of my own fan poll for Player of the Season.

A very close one, and the results are as follows:

1st              Steve Hipwell             26.92% of the vote
=2nd         Ean Griffiths               23.08%
=2nd         Albert Portsmouth   23.08%

So, well done to all, but a special congratulations here to Steve Hipwell for a great season and being the first Fanzone Player of the Season.

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A Word With Rowland Winter

I spoke yesterday with Cambridge Director of Rugby, Rowland Winter, to get his views on the season that’s just passed.  I also ask about the End of Season Dinner and Player Awards and about preparations in place for next season.  Listen to the interview below………

 

Cambridge vs Canterbury

The last home game of the season, and unfortunately a game that I couldn’t make, and what a game to miss!

An absolute try-fest as Cambridge beat Canterbury by 56-49!  Jack Green even scored his first try for the club!

Read the Cambridge News Report here…

http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Cambridge-56-Canterbury-49-feast-running-rugby/story-26357639-detail/story.html

Old Elthamians vs Cambridge

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.

Ayrton Brothers Profile

James and Mike Ayrton, besides playing for Cambridge, they work in insurance and brokering. So, if you’re looking for financial advice, or need any legal papers drawing up, these are your guys.

Mike_AyrtonJames_Ayrton

Mike Ayrton (left)            James Ayrton (right)

But, their first love is rugby. Younger brother James, 21, earned his 50th cap in the last-minute home victory over Southend. He has been an important member of the squad for the past few seasons, and was voted Players’ Player of the Season last year, which shows just how much his teammates value his contribution.

Mike, has been with Cambridge for five years now, though has spent most of this season as a spectator because of a knee injury. However, Mike, 23, is now back in training and hopes to add to his 109 caps before this season is finished.

He said: “The injury has been frustrating for me, but I’ll be playing regularly again before long. We’re all looking forward to a promotion charge next season, and I can’t wait to play a part in that.”

Mike has been a constant voice of support from the side-lines, and today, his voice will be booming through the speakers, as he makes the announcements cheering on the Blood and Sand.

“In our last few games, we have proven how good we can be”.

Both brothers came through the Saracens academy, but were both released at the age of 18. They both then signed almost immediately for Cambridge, albeit two years apart, and neither has looked back since.

James said: “We’ve both signed on again for next season and the hopes are high. I’d be surprised if anyone wanted to leave the club now. It’s had its financial difficulties in the past, but it’s a great place to be, and the supporters are the friendliest you’re going to get.”

However, the brothers were quick to praise one man who is leaving Volac Park, head coach Craig Newby. Craig is joining leading Japanese club NEC Green Rockets to become their forwards coach.

They said: “Craig has been a great coach and has helped us to have one of the best defences in the league. Of course we’re sorry to see him go, but we all wish him the best of luck because he’s a really nice guy and a genuinely brilliant coach”.

Reminiscing on this season, James said: “I don’t think it’s been a bad season all-in-all. We started slowly, and it would have been easy to throw the towel in, but the lads are determined and the coaches motivated us well.  In our last few games, we have proven how good we can be, and we see these last few games as another stepping stone going into next year, but we still want to finish as high as possible this season, second is still mathematically possible”.

Clifton are the visitors today, and they narrowly won a tight, low scoring battle earlier in the season. James said: “We know what Clifton are going to bring here. They will be very physical and we will have to combat that. But, if we play the sort of rugby we’ve been playing lately, then I don’t think they’ll be able to handle that”.

Let’s hope this is the case, and the Volac Park faithful can listen to Mike over the tannoy this afternoon, celebrating a sixth win in a row for the Blood and Sand.

Cambridge vs Clifton

A first half try-fest proved too much for Clifton, as Cambridge racked up their sixth win in a row, by 46-7.

The first 20 minutes though, saw both sides trying to adapt to the howling winds blowing across Volac Park.

But once Cambridge closed up the gaps in the line, some clever offloads, combined with speed and some good lines, saw the deadlock broken.

After the first try from Matt Goode, the floodgates opened, and Cambridge put on an attacking demonstration for the home crowd.

The ten minutes leading up to the half-time whistle saw the Blood and Sand cross the whitewash five times to give them a 29-0 lead at the break. This included a first half hat-trick for Matt Goode.

The first was created by the powerhouse number eight Steve Hipwell, who smashed through two tackles before passing the ball to Goode for an easy opening to the scoring.

A moment later, the impressive Ben Penfold at fly-half threw in a cheeky reverse pop-pass, which tore another hole in the usually stubborn Clifton defence, and Goode had his second.

The third came from a break down the left by Jim Wigglesworth, but this time Goode had a little more legwork to do himself, as he put the burners on to score in the corner.

Two more tries came through Wigglesworth and prop Thomas Jones. For the first, Wigglesworth created his own score this time, as he showed his opposite number a clean set of heels, stepping and running round him to cross over.

The second for Jones, came through some good handling skills down the line. The ball came out to the right quickly, and Jones was the extra man over to touch down unopposed in the corner.

The second half started similarly, as Ollie Marriott broke through inside a minute of the restart to kill any hopes Clifton may have still harboured, playing with the advantage of the wind behind them in the second half.

The only trouble Cambridge faced in the game was when they received two yellow cards, and for almost ten minutes, were playing with 13 against 15. The defensive line was tested for the only prolonged spell of the game, and to Clifton’s credit, they did manage their only score of the game from a driving maul, as the Cambridge pack struggled to cope minus two forwards.

Once Cambridge were back up to full strength, the game seemed to just peter out, as both sides knew the result was already beyond doubt, and Cambridge would be keeping the full five points at Volac Park.

But, right on the whistle, there was one more try for the home fans to cheer, as James Stokes latched on to a Wigglesworth grubber-kick to score a well-deserved try. The final whistle then blew as Stokes struck the conversion attempt, and Cambridge had won 46-7 at a canter.

The hard work that Cambridge have put in is paying dividends on the pitch now, the only disappointing thing, is that there are only three games left this season, the next of which is away to Old Elthamians on the 11th April. But, with the bulk of the squad having already signed on for next season, the future is bright.

Visit http://www.crufc.co.uk for more information

Tracey Baxter and Ian Whitby Profile

First Team Manager Tracey Baxter believes he may be throwing the club into chaos in the near future.  This is because he will be missing the first few fixtures at the start of next season, as he will be the Team Liaison Officer for Argentina during the upcoming World Cup in September and October (depending on how far the Argies go in the tournament).

“Who will keep the boys in-check while I’m away.  Ian Whitby will take over my role in my absence, but he’s more of the good cop and I’m the bad, and I fear the players may take advantage of him!  But, on the other hand, if he copes well I may not have a job when I come back!”

Tracey Baxter
Tracey Baxter

Ian, Cambridge’s Kit Manager, replied by saying: “No need to worry.  We’ve coped without you in the past, plus, there were lots before you and there will be plenty after, so no panic!”

Tracey has been part of the club since 1985, when he joined as a player, as a second or back row forward.  When he finished playing, he took on the role of coaching the youth and colts, before also combining this with coaching the County and Eastern Counties age grade sides.  Then, more recently as one of two coaches working with the Cambridge Development squad.

  • From 1985 to 2000, Tracey and Ian made over 350 appearances for the club, scoring 25 tries between them.

Nowadays though, their glamour has faded somewhat, but the roles they play within the club are still extremely valuable, and their faces are ever-present wherever the team goes.  Tracey’s duties include organising the travel and food amongst others, but probably most difficult of all is keeping tabs on the players!

He says: “The playing standard here has certainly risen since I played, but the players themselves are needier than ever! Players want certain things at certain times: Greeny ‘needs’ his wrist tape, Jim Wigglesworth always ‘needs’ a guzzle of Lucozade before going out, yet he can never find the bottle, even though they’re always in exactly the same place!  Wolfie likes to cuddle a water bottle throughout the warm-up and always manages to lose it.  The list goes on, but their hearts are in the right place!”

“Wolfie likes to cuddle…”

Ian’s job is that of kit man, and having seen some of the mud-baths we’ve been involved with recently, a job I do not envy.  He must cringe when the team has to come in at half-time and change kits because they’re caked in mud!  Double the amount to wash!

Ian_Whitby
Ian Whitby

But, his duties don’t end there, and as Tracey knows all too well, the players can often be the biggest burden on the job.  Ian says: “I get all the kit ready to go on Thursday night.  I often get calls or e-mails on Friday night, sometimes when they should really be in bed already!  Some say “Have you seen my gum shield?” or “did I leave my boots at training”, Wolfie is one of the main culprits!  Some players are just a bit spoilt, our club captain Stef for example, he wants everything set out just right for him, but we just have to try to keep them happy!”.

Sometimes though it’s not just the players.  Ian says: “Rowland Winter can be a real pain at times!  He has a knack of wanting something at the last minute.  We have to second guess him sometimes and say yep, we’ve packed that already.  I’d say we only use about a tenth of the gear we take away with us on a Saturday!

“Rowland Winter can be a real pain!” 

To read the full article and much more at http://www.crufc.co.uk