A winning start to 2015 for CURLFC

CURLFC 48 – 24 Brunel RLFC

Fresh from a successful training camp in the Shanghai district of Hull, East Yorkshire, a new-look CURLFC side approached their first fixture of term with a quiet confidence, despite their opponents Brunel having had a so far unbeaten season. Although they put themselves under some early pressure, Cambridge started the stronger, and opened the scoring with a sweetly-executed move on the left flank, with debutant half-back Pete Shotton touching down.

Brunel, however, were not going to give up their unbeaten record lightly, and despite Cambridge coming out on top in a brief give-a-punch, take-a-punch interlude instigated on shaky grounds by prop Tim Hillel, some strong running by the away side’s influential loose forward resulted in a try to level the scores. This would be the last time Brunel had parity, however, as some accurate kicking by standoff and team hydrationist Max Burrows resulted in good field position for the Green Lions, which was swiftly converted into points. Hooker Saul Liesegang wriggled over the line himself from the back of a ruck after riskily ignoring a three-man overlap, and some bulldozing runs from Hillel and second rows Abs Hughes and George Laing allowed captain Harry Cozens to barrel his way to a true forwards’ try. Brunel pulled a try back before half time, but with Burrows’ impeccable kicking record the home side went in reasonably happy at 18-12.

Cambridge stepped up their intensity in the second half, and a flagging and clearly under-hydrated Brunel side were unable to cope. The Green Lions’ defensive disorganisation which had resulted in the halftime score slightly flattering the London side was tightened up, and it started raining huge tackles, with Shotton, prop John Cormie, second row Dave Earnshaw and centre Jack Amey all putting their hand up for the hit of the day award. This accolade must, however, go to diminutive centre Ewan “the smallest dog in the fight” Smith, whose ferocity in the tackle saw men twice his size throw the ball on the floor rather than be tackled by him.

The home side scored six second half tries to their opponents’ two: most were strong line breaks made through a tiring Brunel defensive line softened up by some hard work by the Cambridge forwards, who operated mostly unchanged throughout the second half thanks to a bench light on forwards interchanges and a knee injury to one of the their most experienced and influential second rowers. John Wylde scored two boisterous tries down the left wing, the second of which was set up by a lovely pass from prop John Cormie; his unexpected appearance in this backs move was likely to have been due to him not knowing entirely where he was thanks to an earlier knock to the head, though he would argue that it displayed the confidence with which the whole Cambridge team were playing. Full ack Anton Evans proved that perseverance is arguably more important than pace as he dragged himself over the line, and a weaving run from loose forward James Greenan-Barret showed that whatever the backs could do, the forwards could do better.  The greyhound in Ewan “Pitbull” Smith came out for a run as he finished off a lovely backs move, and Nicky Watmore, playing on the right wing, scored after a break from the halfway line during which he taunted the hapless Brunel defenders by carrying the ball aloft in front of him as if on a silver platter. Burrows unluckily hit the woodwork twice but still ended up with a respectable return of six conversions from nine attempts, which contributed to the final score of 48-24 to Cambridge.

Cambridge coach Andy Champ was happy with the result, saying, “On paper that was one of the strongest teams we’ve come up against over the last few years, and we beat them well today. I’m especially happy that so many of the more inexperienced lads have stepped up and slotted into the team so well.”

The Green Lions will know that they will have stiffer tests to come, but this result will give them a lot of confidence going into the rest of the league season and a packed pre-Varsity fixture list.