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Last gasp Wanderers off to a winning start

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

esar Sempere's first-half try had the Wanderers ahead and when Tom Stephenson cancelled out a Cambridge try in the second half, it looked like theirs to loose. They almost did too, Cambridge producing a battling comeback to take a two point lead in the 79th minute, before Tommy Bullough went over with the final play of the match.


Following an early penalty apiece it was the Wanderers who made inroads, Darrel Dyer punching through tacklers before the ball was whipped out to Sempere, who used the man outside as a decoy to barge his way through and over the line.


Cambridge hooker Mark Murdoch then bulldozed through and set about a promising sequence in response for the hosts. Despite a knock on, the Wanderers' five-metre scrum quickly became a Cambridge one, Will Hooley spilling the ball as it was fired back from the base. The Blues' next attack brought about their first points of the night as the Wanderers went in at the side and full back Tom O'Toole kicked the three points from straight in front.


Twice the Wanderers then turned up the chance of cancelling out that penalty, but after going to touch on both occasions, points eventually came from a Charlie Sadler drop goal.


It was a fast and hard-hitting game and Cambridge almost produced a cracker of a try, centres combining with piercing lines and some fall away offloads, but Sempere this time proved the try saver, picking the perfect time to commit to the tackle as last man.


The Spaniard was having a blinding first 10 minutes and his next contribution was to hare onto the end of a string line break by Sam Farmer. This time it was the Cambridge cover that worked well though and denied the full back a certain try.


Hooley was starting to pull the strings for the Wanderers and after carving the hosts' wide open, he almost found Sadler with a cross kick, too. As it was, it took another twenty minutes of patience and pressure before they would score again, working their way into the Blues 22 and setting up an easy chance for Ryan Glynn from the tee, the final points of the half.


The hosts started the second period by rolling a huge maul some 25 metres into Wanderers territory, before spreading the ball well. Sempere was quickly out of the line to halt the move, but his interception was slapped down and Cambridge would use a penalty lineout to power captain Scott Annett over.


It was certainly an entertaining game and with Dyer hitting it up for the Wanderers once more, the Wanderers hit straight back. The score owed much to Stephenson's impressive strength as the 17-year-old centre smashed straight though Cambridge's last man after picking up a bobbling cross kick from Hooley.


Just past hour though it became a one-point game as Cambridge produced almost a carbon copy of their previous try, though this time it was winger Rob Stevens driven over. O'Toole completed the score to set up a tentative final quarter.


Much of the running was done by the Blues, but a mixture of good Wanderers tacking and home errors - including a missed penalty from O'Toole - kept the visitors ahead into the final 10. Discipline had to be good, but when Tom Warren made a legitimate looking hit on the Cambridge scrum-half, it was deemed late and dangerous by the referee. While the hosts' new kicker thumped the upright, Warren had been shown yellow and the final 10 minutes would be played out 15 against 14.


Even so, the next highlight was a speedy linebreak from Wanderers replacement Bullough straight up the middle but when that move ended in a Cambridge penalty, the ball was moved upfield for another kickable chance. This time a hanging attempt by O'Toole was on line and dropped just over the crossbar to capture the lead.


It would last just one minute however, the Wanderers breaking Cambridge hearts with the very last play of the game. Faced with a wall of defenders, Jordan Husband took the risk to chip through and it paid off, as the chasing Bullough stretched out a long arm to scoop the bouncing ball in and slam down. The conversion went astray but it mattered little as the game was already up, a hard fought winning start for the Wanderers was assured.


TIMELINE

4mins WAND Try Sempere 0-5

12mins CAMB Pen O'Toole 3-5

17mins WAND DG Sadler 3-8

36mins WAND Pen Glynn 3-11

HALF-TIME CAMB UNI 3 WAND 11

47mins CAMB Try Annett 8-11

52mins WAND Try Stephenson 8-16

62mins CAMB Try Stevens Con O'Toole 15-16

66mins CAMB Miss pen O'Toole

69mins CAMB Miss pen

78mins CAMB Pen O'Toole 18-16

80mins WAND Try Bullough 18-21

FULL TIME CAMB UNI 18 WANDERERS 21