The view from the other side
“Young faces show they are no Mugs”
Cambridge 24 Moseley 29 - Friendly
By Mark Taylor – Courtesy of the Cambridge News
More than three months have elapsed since the end of the last campaign, but Cambridge’s new-look squad was back to the future.
Championship side Moseley, one of the most famous names in rugby, made their way to Wests Renault Park for a historic first match against Cambridge, and they may be wondering whether the two club’s paths could cross at the end of the season.
That is a bold statement, and to say it is early days is an understatement – it is 4am with the clocks still to go back – but this showed Cambridge’s form and play at the end of last campaign was no flash in the pan.
Director of rugby Bob Crooks has been rebuilding during the summer, bringing in youngsters to reform the Wanderers and new players to strengthen the first team.
But at times the two became one, offering a glimpse of what could be a wealth of talent in depth.
It may have been a 29-24 win for Moseley – Ben Pons’ winning try came in the eighth minute of added time – but Cambridge certainly did not deserve to lose, although outcomes are not important in pre-season – it is, as Crooks explained pre-match, about the bigger picture.
Earmarked in the programme as part of the Wanderers’ squad, 18-year-old scrum-half Ben Spencer’s second-half performance suggested he may be heading round the country in National League One instead.
Fellow Ivybridge Community College graduate Dan Mugford started from the off, getting greater in prominence in the fly-half role as the game wore on.
Those two were joined in catching the eye by Mike Ayrton, and that was not just for his luminous green boots, as the young winger, who joined from Oaklands College, put in a fearless 40-minute cameo.
And the older heads were there for support, none more so than Rob Hurrell and Darren Fox.
Cambridge’s style of play will earn admirers, and they dominated in most areas, with Moseley’s tries coming through rare attacks. (Really? See ‘proper’ report below – Ed!!!)
You were always going to get rustiness and, having controlled play, Cambridge appeared aggravated with themselves in possession as they trailed 17-0 at half time.
But Spencer spotted a gap to get the opening try after the break, before most people even realised he had come on, and Stewart Pearl then further reduced the arrears.
Ed Styles extended Moseley’s lead before new-boy Ien Ascroft-Leigh pegged it back to 17-24.
And then Matt Edison’s neat side-step and Greg White’s conversion made it 24-24, only for Pons to strike in injury time. However, there was plenty for Crooks to be enthused about.
"I have complete confidence in the people I recruit and the teams I put together, but there was a little point this morning where I thought ‘oh, what’s going to happen today?’" he said.
"But Mike Ayrton, 18, at college last year; Dan Mugford, 18, at college last year; Ben Spencer, 18, at college last year don’t look out of place. The new lads that came in I thought were exceptional, did really well. We mustn’t get carried away, but they played really well. "Our structure caused the opposition all sorts of problems.
"The detail now is getting quicker ball, better clearing, better contact, because if we’d have done some contact work and delivery work, we would have produced ball out there that would have been too quick for them to handle."
And just for balance
The less myopic view!
From “watcher” on the Moseley Message Board
We hope Watcher does not mind us “borrowing” his excellent review from the Moseley Supporters Website to provide a less Cambridge focused view on the game after reading the above report.
“This was a good work out by Moseley even though ten (actually twelve – Ed) players (a number of them key) were missing and new combinations were being tried out in all areas of the team. Mistakes are more severely punished the higher up the leagues you go and while the Cambridge coaches may have thought their team played well it only needs a few of these and the game is gone.
In fact if this had been a proper game, many of the Cambridge players would have been sitting on the bench from yellow or indeed red cards from persistent infringing around rucks and mauls. It seems the referee was reluctant to utilise this sanction (although he did often give penalties for the offences) as it was a friendly game but in so doing he often neutralised the advantage we would have received from some quicker ball and the possibilities of more Moseley scores (kicks at goal were scorned by both sides).
The reality was that in the first half Moseley was much the better team. Lets make no mistake about it Cambridge had a good well drilled side but consistent pressure by Moseley from much greater possession (not sure how that quite matches up with Cambridge's "dominant pack" during this period but never mind!) after numerous well executed recycling movements eventually led to Cambridge cracks opening up and mistakes resulting in a comfortable 17-0 Moseley lead at half time.
Only the changes at half time to give all the Moseley players a run out (which resulted in the departure of leadership as Gareth Taylor made way for de La Harpe and skipper Mason was injured) combined with unfamiliarity among the players allowed Cambridge the opportunity to get some points on the Board. Moseley's players also took their feet off the gas a bit after the break and in relaxing allowed Cambridge far too much space and some deft handling by their lively backs led to a couple of good home scores.
Our line outs and scrummages were not good - but that's not surprising as these two areas have not been worked on in practice yet! However when last season's regular front row of Williams, Caves and Sigley came together for the first time in the match with ten minutes to go and Gareth Taylor came back on at the same time, our scrummage exerted considerable pressure and it seemed inevitable that we would eventually score again - which we did to win the match.
Adam Caves had to play the whole game in the absence through injury of new boy George Warner and the unavailability of Korre Britten and we think he was the scorer of the third try referred to by the announcer as "a chubby bloke in a white shirt" - narrows it down a bit I suppose! This followed yet another well executed Moseley driving maul (again not sure how this equates with the "dominant" Cambridge pack!).
New prop Craig Voisey showed an appetite for work and put in some good hard graft all around the park during his 70 minutes on the field. While scrummaging well Terry Sigley and Nathan Williams may need to up their fitness and contribution levels before the season starts to match Craig. Should be some interesting selection problems in this area especially when Yan Thomas and Sean Knight become available!
Stotty put in his usual grafting shift in the second row while getting used to playing with new partner David Lyons who got around the park well. David is not a ball carrier in the mould of Aly Muldowney but he brings other strengths and dimensions to the second row and showed a lot of industry. Poor throwing in and revised unfamiliar procedures didn't help the poorer-than-usual line out return. Paul Spivey watched frustrated from the touchline as he recuperated from his recent operation.
The new young back row of Pons, Pennycook and Maltman was industrious throughout the full 80 minutes and more opportunities of playing together will tighten up their defensive alignments and positioning and make them a tighter and more effective unit. Mason (injured), Evans (unavailable) and Ellery (finger in splint and another one frustratingly watching from the touchlines) will make this a competitive area over the forthcoming season.
What was particularly pleasing though was the endeavour and patience shown by the Moseley backs in the first half who on this evidence will be a much better unit than last season. Some of the handling and off loading in the first half was superb and one particular deft movement involving Carter (full back) and Styles (wing) led to the first try. Nathan Bressington was absent but he would have enjoyed the abundant possession and opportunities to finish off a few of the moves.
Ollie Thomas scored the second try and on another occasion he raced away from everyone in his unfamiliar outside centre position and was only just hauled down by the desperate defence of three defenders! His defence will undoubtedly improve as he becomes more familiar with the defensive alignments required in the position. Kevin Maggs watched the game with his clipboard and Ian and Don.
New fly half Brad Davies played the first half and looked a little sluggish at times and some kicks were a bit wayward but when he came back on as fly half later in the second half (Andy Borgen moving to inside centre to replace Andy Reay who got a minor injury) the backs again had a better shape. His apparent slowness may just be misleading.
Reay and Thomas made a new unlikely centre combination to start with. Callum McBurnie watched to allow his minor surgery to heal but should be available for Aberavon. Not sure about Maggs availability for that match?
At half time a couple of changes were made with Ryan De La Harpe and Andy Borgen coming on in a new South African half back partnership. Ryan showed great commitment and some good touches and brings extra energy, excitement and options to the team. It was unfortunate then that this over commitment on one occasion led to his absence at the back of a ruck which allowed the home scrum half to waltz through from 25 yards out for Cambridge's first score. Andy only played for a few minutes at fly half before moving to insider centre when Reay was injured although his drop outs still need a bit of work.
Mike Gillick played the first half on the wing and was a bit befuddled at times by his pacy opposite number although he did contribute himself to a good backline display in the first half. Jack Pons played the second half but did not have that many opportunities to shine although one ambitious run from inside his own 22 was thwarted by lack of space.
Andrew Carter at full back was solid and showed great touches. One touchline kick in particular was sublime and his presence under the high ball and skill and endeavour in attack may mean that we have found a worthy successor to Andy Binns.
All in all, a good day out at a friendly hospitable club who should do well on that showing next season. There is plenty to work on for Moseley most certainly but much more to come with returning players and the expectation from some promising performances.”
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