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Bishop's Stortford beaten 24-19 at home to Cambridge in National League 1

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A hard-fought National League 1 derby ended in a disappointing 24-19 defeat for Bishop's Stortford at home to Cambridge in a game dominated by the visitors' driving maul on Saturday.

Stortford got off to the worst possible start, conceding three quick penalties in a row and playing right into the hands of Cambridge's speciality, the driving maul from five-metre lineouts.

The home side did their best to keep their line intact, but succeeded only at the expense of a penalty try being awarded.

With the lineout malfunctioning, possession was hard to come by but, within seven minutes, Stortford were level through an opportunist try to Will Roberts after he charged down a goal-line dropout by the visitors after a speculative kick ahead had been touched down by Cambridge.

George Cullen converted but, six minutes later, his side fell behind once again to another forward's try with Ben Brownlie this time breaking off the back of a trademark driving maul for an unconverted try.

Despite kicking away a lot of valuable possession, the home side were able to level the scores again on 33 minutes. They had managed to scramble rare ball back from their own lineout and, although conceding a scrum, were awarded a free kick for an early push. It was taken quickly by Dan Smart and a long pass to Alex Gilham allowed the winger to make a half break and off load, from which the ball was moved quickly to the opposite wing where Chris Smith managed to wrong-foot his opposite number and squeeze past him for a try in the corner.

BSRFC, Silver Leys, Bishop's Stortford. BSRFC 1st XV v Cambridge RFC. Match Action. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (53812533)
BSRFC, Silver Leys, Bishop's Stortford. BSRFC 1st XV v Cambridge RFC. Match Action. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (53812533)

The second period was quite scrappy and, although they managed to win more possession in the early stages, Stortford were generally well-contained by a strong Cambridge defence.

The visitors progressively took charge and were rewarded with two tries to tighthead Ziana Alexis on 52 and 64 minutes. The first came from a five-metre scrum after Stortford were again reduced to 14 men by the sin-binning of Harry Charter for pulling down a maul on Stortford's line, and the second from another classical driving maul from a lineout.

Although Cambridge looked to be taking charge, the home side immediately launched a rare passage of interpassing, going through several phases and had the defence scrambling. But a loose offload well inside the opposition half allowed a clean turnover and, but for a tremendous chase and tap tackle by Tom Walker - newly on as replacement full-back - his side would have fallen three scores behind.

Instead, Stortford slowly worked their way back into the game and, when they won a rare clean ball from a lineout on halfway, they launched again into a series of free-passing phases and this time were able to hold on to possession, as the ball swung to and fro, with Seb Brownhill eventually forcing his way over for a try from short range.

Walker converted to narrow the deficit to only five points but, although the home side threw themselves into the fray with renewed vigour, Cambridge managed to hold on without undue alarm until the final whistle.

Stortford: M Ayrton, Gilham, Powell, Betteridge, Smith, Cullen, Smart; Roberts, Rayment, McCrone, Charter, Thacker, Apperley, Wrafter, R Banks. Replacements: King, Brownhill, Bridges, Walker, Linney.

Cambridge: Green, Patrick, Wand, Hema, Henderson, Koteczky, Duffin; Morley, Brownlie, Walker, Frost, Baxter, Bretag-Norris, Dawson, Adams. Replacements: Priestley, Alexis, Maka, McCloud, Veenendaal.

Scorers: Stortford - Tries: Roberts 9min, Smith 33, Brownhill 73; Cons: Cullen 10, Walker 74. Cambridge - Tries: Penalty try 2, Brownlie 16, Alexis 52, 64; Cons: Koteczky 10.

Referee: Calum Howard.

Star Man: Ben Brownlie (Cambridge).

Attendance: 720.

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