Samoans taught by students

Cambridge Univ 22 Western Samoa 14
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The Independent Online
THE Western Samoans continued their schizophrenic progress on this tour, one day irresistibly brilliant, the next mean and melancholy. It was the latter face they presented at Grange Road yesterday and although they belatedly and all too briefly displayed their creative skills it was Cambridge who earned the unstinting admiration of the crowd.

This was as much for their relentless pursuit of the foe as for the quality of their play, although they produced some dazzling passages behind the scrum and up front they displayed maturity. In their captain, Steve Cottrell, and Tom Whitford they possess a most potent midfield combination.

On the basis of this performance against the tourists Cambridge must be the clearest of favourites to win next month's Varsity match. Oxford, who were given a sound hiding by the same opposition in midweek, were never in their match while Cambridge were never out of yesterday's contest. Indeed, after Rob Ashforth had equalised with a penalty after 19 minutes Cambridge were never again behind.

Their small but perfectly formed and wonderfully mobile pack hounded the tourists to distraction. They possess genuine class in the back row and Steve Surridge at No 8 gave a masterful display of far-ranging defence and alert close-quarters support. So successful were they in the middle and tail of the line-out that the Samoans were forced to target Brendan Reidy, their loose-head prop, at the front for any decent possession. This, though, greatly restricted their options in the backs, and even when they did break cover it was never quick enough to outstrip the Cambridge defence.

This defeat cannot have done much for the Samoans' morale as they prepare to face England at Twickenham next month, especially as yesterday they played eight of the side who had drawn against Scotland last week. The longer the game progressed, the more ragged they became, and the more confidently did Cambridge build their attacks.

One of them was most beautifully worked, leading to a stunning try by Nick Walne. From a poorly directed Samoan drop-out the students' threequarters ran from a shallow alignment and with as fine a demonstration of co-ordination and dexterity as we have seen all season, Whitford sliced through before delivering the scoring pass to Walne, who was injured in the process and had to leave the field.

That try embellished a victory which had already been secured by Cottrell's score. He had taken Ashforth's well-judged pass and ploughed through some indifferent Samoan tackling for the try. Ashforth himself contributed mightily to the victory. In the first half, when the students were understandably tentative, his kicking encouraged his forwards and provided them with a refuge on the touchlines. In addition he kicked three penalties and, a real body blow to the Samoans this, a crisply struck dropped goal six minutes before half-time. He tackled his weight too but that could be said of every man jack in this university side, including Adrian Spencer whose last game in a Cambridge jersey had been in the Varsity match last year. It then transpired that he had turned out for London Broncos and his subsequent banishment from rugby union's ranks became something of a cause celebre.

Yesterday he produced a magnificent try-saving tackle on Alex Telea when the Samoans at last set off in pursuit of their near-impossible target. Veli Patu scored a couple of minutes before the end but the students' spirit remained unbroken.

Cambridge University: A Spencer; S Sexton,T Whitford, S Cottrell, (capt), N Walne (J Rutter, 77); R Ashforth, B Ryan; L Mooney (D Brandt, 36-39), J Evans, N Holgate, R Bramley, C Simpson, M Hyde, R Earnshaw, S Surridge.

Western Samoa: V Patu; B Lima, T Vaega, K Tuigamala, A Telea; C Burns, M Vaea; B Reidy, O Wautautia, P Fatialofa, S Lemamea, F Falaniko, L Taala, S Vaifale, P Lam (capt).

Referee: G Crothers (Belfast).