Cambridge 49 Fylde RU 29
CAMBRIDGE swept aside an injury-disrupted Fylde side in 15 crucial second-half minutes to score four tries and secure maximum points from this game at Volac Park.
Entering the final quarter of the game, Fylde had battled back to be just a point behind, at 22-23 down, and very much in contention.
But an injury to fly-half Richard Kenyon, the fulcrum of their dangerous back line, upset their defensive patterns and Cambridge exploited this fully for a deserved win.
The first half was shaded by Cambridge, who rejoice in the nickname Blood & Sand, but Fylde were always in contention.
Kenyon opened the scoring in the third minute, when he kicked a penalty.
Cambridge came back strongly, and scored their opening try through centre Tom Wheatcroft who then added the extra points.
On 13 minutes, following a home turnover, the ever-impressive Cambridge winger Anders Morgensen broke through the Fylde defence and scored a good try, also converted by Wheatcroft, for a 14-3 lead.
It was now Fylde’s turn to up the intensity of the play.
Winger Oli Brennand was in his most startling, elusive form.
On 15 minutes he forced his way over the line, surrounded by opponents, in the most unlikely fashion for a try.
The conversion was missed, but Fylde had reduced the deficit to 8-14.
Three minutes later Brennand was at it again, this time with a trademark break from 30m, scattering defenders in his wake.
Kenyon converted and Fylde had a 15-14 lead.
Wheatcroft injured his ankle and was replaced by Will Lawson.
Fly-half Sam Dimmick took over goal kicking responsibility, and punished Fylde for two examples of indiscipline by converting penalties in the 26th and 40th minutes. In between, Kenyon struck the posts with a penalty attempt from in front of the posts.
A 20-15 lead for Cambridge was a reasonably fair reflection of the first half.
A third Cambridge goal kicker, replacement fly-half Adam White, kicked another penalty in the 56th minute.
But Fylde totally dominated the third quarter and responded in the best possible fashion when, from another Brennand break, the young winger selflessly set up fullback Mike Waywell, who crashed over for a typical try.
Kenyon converted and Fylde were just a point in arrears at 22-23.
The tight and loose exchanges were pretty even throughout the game.
If Cambridge had an initial advantage at the scrummages, Fylde made up for it in the line-outs, which they edged.
It was also competitive at the tackle breakdown,, with Fylde flanker Evan Stewart making an excellent return after injury alongside back-rowers Sam Beaumont and Grant Ferguson.
A crucial moment came almost immediately when Waywell again broke for the Cambridge try-line down the middle.
He came up just short and the home side cleared their lines. The game changed totally when a dramatic blitz of three Cambridge tries in five minutes decided the game.
Fylde’s defence was decimated as lock Ien Ascroft-Leigh drove over for the try, followed by a brace by winger Mike Ayrton.
Even if one of Ayrton tries was the result of a big forward pass, this was a devastating and conclusive exploitation of a mixture of Fylde mistakes and good play by the hosts. Suddenly, Cambridge had a 42-22 lead and were out of sight.
Things got worse for the visitors, as fellow winger and man of the match Morgensen notched his second try in the 78th minute, converted by White for a lead of 49-22.
But Fylde didn’t let such a devastating spell overwhelm them and once more fought back to claim a four-try bonus point as lock Paul Arnold drove over in the last minute, converted by replacement fly-half Steve Collins.
Fylde head coach Mark Nelson was far from despondent by his side’s third successive defeat.
“This was a much better performance than the previous week at home to Barking.
“While I’m clearly disappointed we lost, there were a number of positives that we can take from the game.
“It might seem unlikely just looking at the final score but we could even have won the match apart from that five-minute period in which things went monumentally wrong.
“During most of the match the players did themselves justice, and even after that four-try period they fought back for an important bonus point.
@Such points are very, important in such an even division in which, apart from Ealing, any team appears capable of beating any other.
“We lost influential lock Gareth Rawlings through injury in the 53rd minute, and Richard Kenyon suffered two heavy knocks before coming off late on – both these events disrupted our game plan.”
Fylde remain in third place in National One, despite the three recent defeats.
They welcome Tynedale to the Woodlands on Saturday, and it will be vital to get back to winning ways.