At a recent RFU Governance committee meeting it was agreed to give Cottenham Renegades RUFC voting club status, the 47th such club in Eastern Counties. This was an important step for the club established in 2002 by a group of players, the original Renegades, that broke away from St Ives RFC. Other than allowing the club to apply for tickets for Twickenham Internationals, it marked the transition from a one team village club to one that has ambitions to grow the game through its Rascals Youth & Mini section whilst retaining the ethos of playing for fun.
I was lucky enough to be invited to a pre-match lunch on Saturday and although I had seen Renegades play once or twice before I had never watched them at home. The Hon Secretary is Richard Cowley who I have known for many years going back to when he was Director of youth rugby at Cambridge RUFC and we briefly served on the Eastern Counties committee together. Richard met me at the Cottenham Conservative Club which serves as Renegades’ social base, but before I could enjoy some of the local brew I was whisked off to the Recreation Ground up the road to hear about the club’s plans for relocation.
Renegades currently play at Cottenham Village College where the headmaster is a big supporter of the club, but the junior section train and play on Sundays at the Rec. The Parish Council is considering moving all the major sports to the same place and I was surprised to see just how much space there was. Any move is still a few years away but there is a lot of enthusiasm which I’m sure will see the project through.
Back to the Conservative Club where I was looking forward to sampling the beer from the Fellows Brewery in Cottenham. A pint of Chapeau D’Espagne (Spanish Hat) followed by another of Razor Wire was the perfect aperitif before sitting down to lunch in the company of President Shaun Clark, like Richard another refugee from Cambridge RUFC.
My ever expanding waistline bears testament to the number of pre-match lunches I attend during a year, but the fare provided by the catering volunteers at Renegades was amongst the best I have had this season; a very tasty butternut squash soup followed by a succulent chicken breast in a tarragon sauce. A beautiful home-made brownie with ice-cream came next and a cheese-board to finish, all for just £15. An excellent lunch and very good value too. Lunch overran so thankfully the guests only had to listen to my prattling on for a few minutes before it was time to make the half-mile journey to the ground.
The opposition in the Greene King Merit Table fixture were Cambridge Exiles and I have to say I was impressed at the level of commitment both sides showed. It was fair to say that a number of the Renegades team would have comfortably qualified for a Vets side but they showed a level of skill and tackling prowess that belied their years. The Cambridge back line were very youthful in comparison but they were clearly surprised how difficult it was to break through the home defence.
Each team scored a try in the first half with a Renegades conversion proving the difference at half-time. The second half was very tense with Cambridge enjoying the lions share of possession, mainly due to Renegades’ apparent tactic of kicking them the ball at every opportunity and letting Cambridge run it back. A combination of continued resolute home defence and poor decision making by the visitors saw Renegades hang to to their slender 7-5 lead until the last minute of the game, when a rush of blood to the head saw Renegades concede a needless penalty 25 metres out in front of the posts. The kick was by no means a formality as two previous attempt from similar positions had gone comfortably wide. However it was third time lucky and the ball went between the posts for Cambridge to record a 7-8 win.
Then it was back to the Conservative Club for a pint of Crafty Fellow and a post mortem on the game before heading back home to Colchester. Having not seen any grass-roots rugby for over a month I realised how much I enjoy it and all that goes with it; the banter, the socialising, the meeting of old friends and the making of new ones, and of course seeing thirty men enjoy what must be the best team sport in the world.
A perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Pictures from the game