Rugby: Wendens Ambo make finals day after hard-fought victory over Cambourne Exiles
06:55 27 March 2014
A season-defining game gave Wendens the chance to book their place in finals day at Saffron Walden.
A strong Wendens squad looked in confident mood as they took the battle to Cambourne from the off. Luke Bailey, Bradley Francis and Lewis Thake all made penetrating breaks with only some less than perfect handling preventing a very early opening score.
However, Wendens opened up a 14-point lead in the first quarter with first Thake showing his characteristic resilience to score close to the posts and then flanker Danny Engineer showing great support running to follow up on another Wendens breakaway. Fly-half Alex Francis made both conversions.
Francis then nearly added to the score himself with a slow motion break from the base of a ruck. He was hauled down just short of the line, but the setback was to be shortlived, with Thake adding a second try to his tally. The score was not converted, but at this stage of the game it appeared that a 19 point lead would be more than enough to see Wendens through.
Cambourne though had other ideas, as their powerful pack began to assert control and starve Wendens of possession. The last 10 minutes of the first half saw Wendens pinned to their own line and eventually Cambourne’s front five were able to ensure that a try was scored before the interval to make the score 19-5 at half time.
The watching crowd could sense that the next score might prove crucial, but the second half was a much tighter affair than the first: Cambourne’s pack remained dominant but were unable to convert possession into points – and gradually the Wendens pack began to find their feet and gain a little more possession. However, Cambourne eventually scored close to the posts, duly converted by fly half Mark Lisher to bring the visitors within one score of taking the game to extra time.
The victory was sealed by a breakaway try as a loose ball by Cambourne was seized upon by the Wendens backed, fly hacked upfield and Engineer winning the race to the ball and scoring under the posts. With a further conversion bringing the lead to fourteen points Cambourne now needed three tries to win the game – but only managed one unconverted try almost on full time to mean that it is Wendens who will play in the finals at Henham on April 26.