Photos courtesy of Paul Clark, S2S Photography.
The home side opened their account in the 3rd minute with a Ben Penfold penalty only to see the advantage wiped-out 4 minutes later when Andrew Humberstone burst through the Cambridge defence to feed flying winger Andrew Denham for his first score of the afternoon. 2 minutes later a rare Rams fumble presented Cambridge with a scrum in their opposition’s 22 and fast hands from the set-piece found full-back Joe Tarrant in space on the left touch line to make it 8-5 to the home team, Penfold unable to take the extras. Aside from another Penfold penalty on the 38th minute the rest of the half belonged to the men from Reading. Fly-Half Alex Seers found Denham in space out wide and some sharp footwork from the winger and a powerful handoff took the visitors deep into their opposition’s half. A final pass inside to the outstanding Ellis Jones gave the Rams outside centre his first try at National 1. Seers converted and then on the 32nd minute produced a bit of magic to put new signing Henry Bird in for a touchdown. Seers added the extras and then kicked a penalty of his own at the end of the first period to make the half-time score Rams 22 Cambridge 11.
Jones and Denham teamed-up again on the 42nd minute but this time it was Denham who got to finish the move grabbing his second try of the afternoon, Seers again on target with the conversion.
The home team hit back on 50 minutes with a converted try only to see the 18 point gap re-established on the 55th minute when hooker Ben Henderson sidestepped, swerved and broke tackles before offloading to full-back Henry Bird to give the debutant a brace for his afternoons work.
The game looked over with Rams maintaining an 18 point advantage deep into the final quarter until well worked successive tries by the home team, both converted by Rhodri Adamson, brought Cambridge back to a deficit of just 4 points with 90 seconds left on the clock.
The away supporters could barely watch the restart fearing that their dream opening appearance win at National 1 may yet be spoiled by Cambridge’s lively backline, but as Seers put the ball deep into the Cambridge 22 it was the flying Denham that got there first to secure possession which the Rams pack did not to squander, running down the clock to bring the game to a close and a dramatic 36-32 win on the road for Rams.
The Berkshire men were relieved to open their National 1 campaign with a win, something that they only achieved at the eighth attempt when they were newly promoted to National 2 back in 2015.
Rams Director of Rugby Seb Reynolds was delighted with his side’s performance “I thought we did really well to get a win against a highly skilful and very dangerous Cambridge team” said Reynolds who added “and I was very pleased with the way our side performed – you have an idea of what to expect at National 1 but actually playing games is different”. When asked about Rams’ prospects at the 3rd tier of English rugby Reynolds was quick to reinforce that there is no room for complacency “It was great to open our account with a win, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer…. there are no bad sides at this level and there are lots of great teams with outstanding players. We will do exactly what we did last year which is to concentrate on developing through building skills and working hard and taking each game as it comes”.
This Saturday 14th September - Rams entertain Midlands giants Birmingham Moseley in game 2 of their National League 1 campaign – kick-off 2:30pm at Old Bath Road, Sonning. Gates open at 12 noon.