Cambridge still the best in the East
17 April 2011
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Most Eastern Counties clubs had finished their league programmes so I went over to Cambridge on Saturday to watch them play Tynedale and see how things are after their much publicised off-field problems earlier this season (Cambridge win winding-up battle). At the time my contribution was to stop too many people at the RFU getting involved, albeit with the best of intentions. Within a couple of days of the HMRC announcing that they would be seeking a winding-up order against Cambridge for unpaid PAYE of over £200k, half a dozen RFU representatives were offering help and (sometimes conflicting) advice, so as the local representative I met with some of the club’s committee members to agree that there should be a single link with the RFU, who also agreed.
Since then club members have rallied round to raise enough money to pay HMRC and Cambridge have re-established themselves as a community club. The playing budget, which was once rumoured to be in excess of £700k, was slashed to somewhere between £100k and £200k and it was widely expected that results would suffer accordingly. But, despite a couple of players moving on, the first team kept winning and winning well, maintaining third place in National League One.
This could be the time to discuss the place of professionalism in English Rugby but that will be a subject for a future article. Cambridge have refocused to become a Community club again with Chairman Steve Bowller praising the achievements of the mini, youth and other adult teams in his speech at the pre-match lunch. The club is not short of support with 170 sitting down to the meal and a crowd of well over 1000 watching an enthralling game against Tynedale.
You can read the report on the club’s website but the standard of play is the best you will see in Eastern Counties with the possible exception of Shelford when they are on song. Tynedale looked strong and fit despite a dozen changes from the published team and they were 17-6 ahead at half time and 27-13 up with 60 minutes on the clock. But a scintillating final quarter saw Cambridge score three tries to take a 32-30 lead after 78 minutes only for Tynedale to snatch victory with a try at the death. Click for pictures from the game.
Cambridge still have a long way to go before their finances are straight again, but the current committee is determined to keep them on the right path, and while the First XV continues to deliver their exciting brand of rugby they will not be short of support.