Ely Tigers travelled into Cambridge Saturday afternoon to face second placed Cantabs, the rain 24 hours earlier and on Saturday morning made the pitch heavy and sticky in places.
Tigers started brightly taking the game to the home side, and it was Ely that got the first points on the board, winning a line out on the left they moved the ball out to the right, finding Matt Mccarthy who dived over the line to place the ball under pressure, with Joel Scott Paul back on kicking duties, his kick was short to add the extra points, the home side had the prefect chance to pull level on their next attack, with players overlapping and free on the right the final pass was woeful and wasted and the chance was gone, but moments later the overlap and space was there again, this time it wasn’t wasted, as Cantabs recycled the ball from right to left leaving the winger free in space to pick up the pass and head over the line before Jake Alsop could recover, like Ely, the extra points couldn’t be converted, the home side were then reduced to 14, following a yellow card, the lead then went to Ely once more, from a knock on penalty and with the home defence standing firm, the ball was moved out to the wing and to Matty Balmer who dived over the line, again the conversion was missed, during this time Ely couldn’t make the extra man count, as the game went back to 15 a side the home side were once more reduced to 14 following another yellow card as the half came to an end with Ely leading 10-5.
With the start of the second half came the turning point of the game, and again it was the referee reaching for his cards that changed the game, with played on the floor, and battling to steal the ball, a short sharp blast of the whistle brought the game to halt, as players emerged from the ground out came a red card for Ely’s Scott Macfarlane as players looked quizzically at each other, with Ely down to 14 it was no surprise that the game was played mostly inside the 22 meter line, and it didn’t take long before the scores were level with Cantabs going over in the corner, again the conversion was missed.
A clearance kick into touch from Ely was kept in play by Cantabs, this looked to be costly, as the home side palmed the ball into the path of Balmer, whose neat foot work nudged the ball forward, it was then a race to who could get to the ball first, and it was Balmer who won that race just touching the ball down before it bounced out of play to give Ely the lead once more, Scott Paul then added the extra points, with the extra man the home side looked to draw level, and again the overlap came into play, but once more handling errors proved costly as the final pass, with the try line in sight, saw the ball bounce out of play, given Ely a chance to clear the ball, the pressure on the Ely back line was soon there again, standing firm at times, and it was during this passage of play the scores were level again with the award of a penalty try to home side, a knock on from the restart saw a penalty awarded, with Scott Paul opting to kick for the points, but the ball dropped short, another chance was to come for Scott Paul following another penalty against the home side, this time his kick was pulled right of the posts, with the game closing, and Cantabs once more adding pressure on the Ely back line, the home side were awarded another penalty try to close out the game 24-17 winners.
Match report and Photographs Steve Wells